Association Opposes Hingham COLA Bill

MAY 1999 - Proposal Defies Contractual Rights Of Retirees - Hingham,
one of four retirement systems in the Commonwealth that have failed to
accept Chapter 17 (1997 COLA law), continues to deprive its retirees of
pension increases by insisting on seeking its own personal COLA law.

year, the Town of Hingham filed legislation, H-5517, which would allow
the Town to establish a separate fund for COLAs, but would not include
the COLAs as part of retirees' permanent pensions. This is contrary to
state law which guarantees that COLAs, once given, are a contractual

The Hingham proposal would
also have had the effect of locking future Option C widows into the
original pensions of their husbands when calculating Option C pensions.
State law requires that COLAs be added to the original pension when
calculating an Option C benefit.

the Legislature rejected Hingham's bill last year, but the Town again
filed the legislation for the '99-00 legislative session. The bill's
new number is H-4077. The Legislature's Public Service Committee held a
hearing on the proposal on March 23 and the Committee is studying the

"The Hingham COLA proposal
flies in the face of everything we've fought for," said Association
President Ralph White. "It ignores the responsibility of integrating
COLA benefits into a community's long range funding program - a
responsibility that the Mass. Municipal Association has long
championed. Strangely, the MMA, which opposed Chapter 17 as being too
costly, supports the Hingham bill.

the only individuals being hurt at this time are the Hingham retirees
and survivors, who have not received a COLA since 1996. However, this
unfortunate circumstance cannot justify the passage of H-4077, which
is, plain and simple, bad pension policy. It's sad that the Hingham
retirees are being used as pawns by the Town in its fiscal chicanery."

H-4077, Hingham is attempting an 'end run' around the current statutory
requirement to fully fund pension benefits. It is an ill-advised
resumption of the flawed 'pay as you go' approach towards paying
pension benefits," said Association Legislative Chairman Bill Hill.

need only look to the problems now facing the 'pay as you go' Social
Security Program to see why the Commonwealth and its municipalities
adopted full funding in the '80s. One of our, and the Commonwealth's,
strongest arguments against mandatory Social Security (see article,
p.9), is that we are fully funding our pension obligations, while the
federal government is not."

should be noted that the Association does not stand alone in its
opposition to H-4077. At the Public Service Committee hearing on the
bill, several unions and associations spoke out against H-4077.

those in opposition is the Mass. Association of Contributory Retirement
Systems (MACRS). "We, as an organization, stand with the Retiree's
Association on this issue," states MACRS lobbyist John "Coley" Walsh.
"When testifying before Public Service, I voiced MACRS's strong
opposition to the Hingham COLA proposal."