Governor Lincoln Chafee says he remains hopeful the proposed state pension settlement can be salvaged, possibly by leaving out the police group that was the only one of six in an initial round of voting to reject the deal.
"We're going to keep moving forward. It's not going to be easy," Chafee said after emerging from a news conference at the US attorney's office Tuesday morning announcing a consent decree in a case affecting 3250 developmentally and intellectual disabled Rhode Islanders.
On Monday, Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter ordered the two sides in the pension dispute back to mediation after votes were counted in an initial tally. A September 15 trial date has been set in case the pension conflict can't be resolved by then.
Asked why he thinks a settlement can still be reached, Chafee said, "You have to believe that hope springs eternal, and this is a very complicated case, and I just want to avoid the long protracted litigation, obviously with high lawyers' fees and then the uncertainty of not knowing what the outcome might be -- devastating for the taxpayers if it's adverse."
"We're so close right now," Chafee said, pointing to how five of the six groups in the first round of voting approved the settlement by decisive margins.
While some union members and retirees have sharply criticized the settlement process, "there are a lot of union members who want to get this resolved also and know that even if they are successful in court, the devastating impact on our budget would affect their members."
Chafee told reporters he thinks there will be time for the General Assembly -- whose leaders and members have shown little enthusiasm for the pension settlement -- to approve the deal this year.
Asked if the settlement might go forward with the five groups that approved it, while litigation goes forward with the police group, Chafee said, "There are various options; That might be one."