Published: Oct 07, 2012 5:01 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 08, 2012 6:31 AM EDT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A legal battle over public pensions in Rhode Island could lead to similar action in states around the country as they attempt to rein in escalating costs.

All told, states face a $1.4 trillion gap between what they've promised workers and what they've set aside to meet those promises. It's a yawning chasm that threatens government finances. But lawmakers are discovering that fixing the problem isn't easy - politically or legally.

Last year Rhode Island lawmakers suspended pension increases, raised retirement ages and made other changes to save $4 billion over 20 years.

But public-sector unions say the state is betraying workers and are suing to block the changes.

More legal challenges are expected, as 43 states have taken some action to address pension costs in the past three years.