Securing Retirement for RI Public Servants

Recently, I joined Governor Lincoln Chafee and the attorneys representing public employee unions and retiree coalitions challenging changes to Rhode Island’s state-administered pension system to announce a proposed resolution. With the help of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, we worked together to reach this proposed settlement. Court-ordered mediation is a common, widely-used dispute resolution mechanism with a long track record of success in the United States. We believe this proposal is fair for our public employees, retirees, taxpayers, and cities and towns.

While I initially had concerns about this court-ordered mediation, I am pleased we were able to come together and work hard over the last year to achieve a settlement agreement that maintains the health of our retirement system in a way that is affordable and sustainable for all Rhode Islanders for decades to come. This proposal, if approved, eliminates several costly pending pension lawsuits challenging 2009, 2010 and 2011 changes to the state pension laws, saving all parties potentially millions in legal fees.

And with this announcement, we are at the beginning of a process that will benefit all Rhode Islanders. The process includes:

• Plaintiffs’ actions: Mail-ballot voting will proceed in the coming weeks.
• Court action: Judge Taft-Carter will conduct fairness hearings and determine whether or not to approve the settlement agreement.
• General Assembly action: The General Assembly will be asked to take action on the legislation in the settlement agreement.

Specifically, it preserves 95 percent of the savings from 2011 while:

• Keeping all the major design changes from 2011, including the move to a hybrid plan, increased retirement age, and COLA suspension until the system is at a stronger funding level
• Still saving Rhode Islanders approximately $4 billion over the next 20 years, and allowing us to tell our valuable public employees that their pensions will be there for them for decades to come

As all parties came together to say, government cannot work without committed and dedicated public servants who deserve a dignified and secure retirement. Whether they are serving our state by keeping us safe, teaching our children, repairing our roads, or working in so many of the unheralded roles that keep our government running, they command our respect, and deserve a dignified and secure retirement. At the same time, too many of our cities and towns continue to face financial challenges. This proposal provides certainty and predictability for our public servants and municipalities to appropriately plan for the future. It also demonstrates that our small state can lead the rest of the nation and come together to solve big problems. We look forward to working together with all involved as this process begins. As this process unfolds, all parties will support and advocate for passage of the proposed legislation.

For more information, please visit As always, please contact my office anytime with questions or concerns.

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