Pension settlement deal falls apart in Rhode Island

by ABC6 News Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

The Rhode Island Employment Retirement Board met hoping to hear details of a pension settlement deal with state union workers and retirees.

But four hours earlier came the bombshell news – the deal was not done.

“We worked late into the night, and we are not completed. Quite frankly this is too important to rush. We have to get it right,” said General Treasurer Gina Raimondo (D) Rhode Island.

“It's the strangest process I've ever seen,” said House Speaker Gordon Fox (D) Rhode Island.

Word spread across the state, and at the annual Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce luncheon where most lawmakers were gathered.

A big issue is whether they and the governor even had the right to reform pensions in the first place.

“It looks like the negotiations are falling apart… The judge has set a trial date of September 15th. We will be prepared to go on that day,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin (D) Rhode Island.

ABC6 News Chief Political Reporter, “Right now the big unanswered questions are how much a settlement might cost the state of Rhode Island and how taxpayers will have to pay for it?”

“If the money's not there, you're not going to get blood out of a stone. That's my biggest concern,” said State Rep. Antonio Giarrusso (R) East Greenwich.

Union employees, such as firefighters, want their 5 percent Cost of Living Adjustments – known as COLAS – reinstated.

Mask Curtis asked:  Is it likely COLAS are coming back, to some extent, maybe not 5 percent, but coming back?

“I'm not going to get into specifics. There's alls sort of variables included, I'm sure they're talking about all those variable,” said House Speaker Fox.

For now, state employees will have to sit and wait to learn the fate of their pensions.