In their first comment since a proposed pension settlement was unveiled Friday afternoon, House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed steer clear of either endorsing or opposing the deal.
Here's a joint statement from the two legislative leaders:
“We are still carefully reviewing the proposed pension settlement. We are going to give it the careful consideration that it deserves and we will be speaking with our respective House and Senate members to gauge their views as well. There is a long road ahead of us and the release of the details of the settlement, which we were not party to, is just a first step. We will await the votes to be taken by both union and non-union members before we weigh in further.”
The settlement reached after more than a year of closed-door mediation would preserve about 95 percent of the 2011 pension overhaul spearheaded by state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, now a Democratic candidate for governor. It would also add $232 million to the unfunded liability for the state pension plan, and increase the combined cost for the state and cities and towns by $24 million just in fiscal year 2016.
In related news, one of Raimondo's Democratic rivals, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, is still reviewing the proposed pension settlement, according to his campaign manager, Danny Kedem. Clay Pell's campaign hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.
Rhode Island Taxpayers, a conservative-leaning taxpayers group, is echoing Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung in saying it would better to test the constitutionality of the 2011 overhaul in court, rather the increasing costs for the state and cities and towns. Fellow Republican Ken Block has also called for avoiding what he calls a "retreat" from the 2011 overhaul.
"It was a mistake for the Governor and the General Treasurer to enter into this non-binding mediation," Rhode Island Taxpayers' spokeswoman, Monique Chartier, says in a statement. "This session and next, legislators need to focus like a laser on improving the state's economy and business climate, not re-hashing a very difficult legislative decision. Let the courts rule on the constitutionality of the 2011 pension reform and let the chips fall where they may."