Rhode Island's treasurer and the judge that brokered a tentative settlement to end a lawsuit against the state over its 2011 pension overhaul law urged lawmakers to approve the deal.
General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and retired state Superior Court Chief Justice Frank Williams told members of the Senate finance committee in Providence that Rhode Island needs to settle the dispute once and for all, to move ahead with myriad other challenges.
"It's time to put the case behind us and move forward,' said Williams, whom Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter . "It's important for the self-esteem of Rhode Island."
State officials expect the measure to save about $4 billion through retiree benefit reductions. Taft-Carter, who held a series of fairness hearings two weeks ago, is expected to sign off on the compromise shortly. The settlement, which lawmakers must also approve, figures to add nearly $300 million to the state's pension-fund gap of about $5 billion.
Failure to approve the compromise, said Magaziner, could hurt Rhode Island's bond ratings and add to business climate uncertainty. In addition, "we need to look the teacher, the firefighter and the state worker in the eye" and tell them their pensions are safe, he said.
Moody's Investors Service rates Rhode Island's general obligation bonds Aa2. Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's rate them AA.
The House finance committee has scheduled a similar hearing for June 3.