Rhode Island judge approves settlement on pension overhaul

AP News
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Posted: Jun 09, 2015 4:59 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A proposed settlement to resolve years of legal wrangling over Rhode Island's landmark public pension system overhaul was approved Tuesday by a judge who called it an imperfect but fair solution.

Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter overruled objections to the settlement, putting an end to nearly all the lawsuits by public-sector unions and retirees against the state over the 2011 reform, which was designed to save the state $4 billion over 20 years. The deal would preserve about 90 percent of the savings.

"The 2015 settlement agreement is not being offered as a perfect solution, nor is perfection required of it under the law," Taft-Carter wrote.

Lawmakers must also approve the settlement.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he's pleased with the judge's decision. He said the changes from the settlement will be incorporated into the budget, which lawmakers are considering.

"I always thought that under very difficult circumstances, the pension reform legislation was fair and in the best interests of the citizens of the state of Rhode Island," he said. "And a court, after a full hearing, just ratified that decision."

Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee said it will be good for the state to move on.

Dozens of people testified during a five-day fairness hearing in May against the settlement, and hundreds filed written objections.

The settlement provides for cost-of-living increases and one-time stipends for retirees.

About 59,000 past and present state employees would be affected by the deal. Unions representing municipal police, Cranston police and Cranston fire, which collectively represent about 800 people, did not accept the terms.