The Superior Court judge overseeing Rhode Island's pension dispute on Thursday wiped out a trial date last month after hearing a special master report on progress toward striking a settlement.
The special master, former State Supreme Court chief Justice Frank Williams, says nearly 60,000 active and retired public employees will be covered by the settlement. Williams says about 800 police officers and firefighters did not agree, so a court challenge by these two smaller groups may move forward.
Williams delivered his report in court to the judge who has presided over the pension case, Sarah Taft-Carter, and she said she accepted his findings. But Williams declined to speak with reporters outside of court, after initially saying he would.
Based on leaked details, the state sweetened a prior settlement offer, with more frequent cost of living increases for pensioners and a minor decrease in retirement ages. Taft-Carter set May 18 as the deadline to implement the settlement.
In a statement, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello praised the settlement, although he said he has not yet had a chance to review the specifics.
“I am pleased that the parties reached a settlement that I believe is in the best interests of the state, its citizens, the retirees and employees," Mattiello said. "I am aware of the general terms of the settlement and I believe they are in the best interests of all, but I haven’t had the opportunity to review the specifics and I reserve the right to do so. The House of Representatives will conduct its due diligence as part of the legislative process and we have established no timetable at this point.”