Lawmakers, municipalities excluded from pension talks

The comprehensive pension reform enacted by the General Assembly three years ago is being mediated under orders from Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter.

But lawmakers are not part of the discussion.

"This mediation process is so secret that everybody is excluded, even particular, the only people who have the ability to implement any quote-unquote settlement, the legislature," Republican state Sen. Dawson Hodgson of North Kingstown said Friday.

Municipal leaders are also left out of the talks. The League of Cities and Towns has alerted all of its members that they have no role in the talks.

"We don't know what's going on. We're a major participant, but the participants in the mediation are the governor's office, the general treasurer's office and a multitude of labor unions," said Peder Schaefer, associate director of the League of Cities and Towns.

They may be affected as groups put out a report warning about what may happen. The cities and towns have been operating under the assumption that pension reform was law. But if the lawsuit succeeds, the costs to municipalities would be in the tens of millions of dollars.

"There are two sides to this. On the one hand, we reduce risk, we bring certainty, if there's a mediated settlement. On the other hand, we don't know what the costs are going to be," Schaefer said.

He said he suspects that a settlement would probably not impose extra costs, which means it will likely spread the payments for pensions out over a longer period -- a reamortization.

"But it mean cities and towns will be paying that very high cost for another five years," Schaefer said.

Any new agreement would have to be written into law by the General Assembly.