Cola Victory Complete

Legislature Scuttles Cellucci's Veto

JANUARY 2000 - Passage
of the FY2000 state budget on November 16th has opened the door for all
eligible retirees and survivors of our 106 retirement systems to
receive a 3% COLA this year - no thanks to Governor A. Paul Cellucci.

Cellucci's signing of the budget enabled state and teacher retirees to
receive a 3%COLA in their November pension checks, retroactive to July
1999, the
governor dropped a bombshell on our Association and thousands of our
members when he vetoed budget language that would allow 3% COLAs for
retirees of our 104 local retirement systems.

scheduled to be a 1.3% consumer price index (CPI) COLA, the House and
Senate upped that figure to 3% after a strong lobby campaign by our
Association. The state and teachers COLA was included in a pension line
item, while the language for local government COLAs was added to the
outside section of the budget.

By signing the budget and announcing over 300 vetoes on the evening of
November 16, the governor left only one day for overrides. Under joint
rules, the House and Senate were scheduled to end their 1999 session on
midnight of November 17.

late-night preparations, our Association's legislative team moved into
overdrive on the morning of the 17th. After meeting with House Speaker
Tom Finneran and Senate President Tom Birmingham and their leadership
teams, all 200 members of the Legislature were either personally
lobbied or received messages from our Association. And the message was
clear: Override Governor Cellucci's COLA veto.

the override motion was presented to the House in mid-afternoon, the
message from the House to the governor was also clear: A 146 to 7 vote
in favor of the override. Less than 30 minutes later, a unanimous
override vote in the Senate completed the process of scuttling the
governor's COLA veto - a huge victory for public retirees.

Accolades Aplenty

the Golden Dome there are so many deserving accolades that we could
hand out we should probably just express our most sincere thanks to the
entire Legislature," said Association President Ralph White.

we must recognize Speaker Finneran for making the COLA veto override
vote a priority on a day when it was impossible to bring every override
to the floor. Also his counterpart in the Senate, President Birmingham,
who said he wanted to present the override to his members as soon as

White noted that the
Speaker and President selected their respective chairmen of the key
Joint Public Service Committee and powerful Ways and Means Committees
to carry the override debate on the House and Senate floor.

Representative Paul Casey and Senator Brian Joyce (Public Service) were
well-prepared and eager to accept the override challenge. "Paul and
Brian were like two fighters waiting to come into the ring for the main
event, and from our viewpoint the COLA was the main event. They didn't
let us down," said White.

Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley and Senate Ways and Means Chairman
Mark Montigny had earlier sponsored the COLAs within their respective
budgets. Both refuted the governor's claim that the local COLAs were an
"additional, unwarranted burden" on towns belonging to county
retirement systems. "Paul Haley and Mark Montigny know that the local
COLA acceptance process is fair and the House and Senate members trust
their judgement," said White.

governor simply used poor judgement in vetoing the COLA. He suffered a
slew of devastating veto overrides and didn't need to add the retirees
to his override record," White pointed out. "It also shows a lack of
respect for what our Association represents. I think that angers me as
much as the veto."

Attention Turns To Locals

the state and teacher 3% COLA in the bank, our attention now turns to
the 104 city, town, county, district and authority retirement systems.

of these local systems had paid a 1.3% COLA in July under the CPI law
which was in effect at that time. The retirement boards which oversee
these systems have been waiting for the new law which is contained with
the FY2000 state budget, officially Chapter 127 of the Acts of 1999.

to voting to pay a retroactive 3% COLA, actually a 1.7% increase over
the July COLA, the boards will have to obtain acceptance of the new law
from their governing bodies. That would be a city council in a city,
the town meeting in a town, and county retirement board advisory
council in a county.

"The cities
and counties can move relatively quickly," said Association Legislative
Liaison Shawn Duhamel. "City councils and county advisory councils meet
on a regular basis. Town retirement boards will have to wait until
spring town meetings in most cases. But again, we anticipate most
retirement boards voting for a COLA retroactive to July '99. This would
be a great millennium present for boards to give their retirees, even
if delayed until after January 1.

boards will not be seeking an additional appropriation from what they
are now receiving. They will not have to go before their governing
bodies asking for money. The three percent, although previously unpaid,
was built into the funding schedules that were adopted two years ago.
There may be pockets of opposition, but it should be minimal. We expect
positive results as the boards go forward with this new law."