Last defendant in pension lawsuit agrees to settle; retirement board unanimously approves deal

The final defendant in the legal fight over the state's 2011 landmark public pension system overhaul agreed Wednesday to settle.

The board that oversees the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island, which provides retirement allowances for state employees, voted unanimously to approve a settlement proposal.

Public sector unions and retirees sued the governor, treasurer and the board over the higher retirement ages and cuts to cost-of-living increases designed to save the state $4 billion over 20 years.

The board discussed the settlement in executive session.

Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who is also the board chairman, urged the members to approve it. Magaziner and Gov. Gina Raimondo already said they'd agree to it.

"A good negotiation is one where neither side comes away feeling like they got everything, but both sides come away feeling like there's a deal they can live with. I think that this agreement reaches that standard," Magaziner said before the executive session began.

Three of the defendants' attorneys presented the settlement to the board and answered questions during the closed session.

Seven of the board's 15 members recused themselves because they were elected to the board by unions or retiree groups involved in the suit. One member was absent.

The board had to approve the deal for it to move forward, Magaziner said after.

Several documents will be filed with the court Monday to allow the case to progress.

The settlement provides for cost-of-living increases and one-time stipends for retirees. The cap for calculating the benefits would increase for some retirees, and the calculation would be based on a new formula using both the performance of investments and the Consumer Price Index.

Employees would be allowed to retire earlier if they meet set requirements.

Most of the public sector unions and retirees voted to accept the terms, which means that 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. Their lawsuits are continuing and will be addressed by the court after the settlement is implemented.

The total cost of the settlement is about $300 million. It preserves 90 percent of the savings from the pension reform.