COLA'99: Nears Approval

NOVEMBER 1999 - "It's
money in the bank" continues to be Association President Ralph White's
reassurance to inquiries about the 3% pension COLA promised for this
past July.

For state and teacher
retirees, the 3% will become law, retroactive to July 1, 1999 as soon
as the FY2000 state budget is passed by the House and Senate and signed
by Governor Cellucci.

City, town,
county and authority retirement systems will also be eligible to pay
the 3% retroactive to July as soon as the new law is accepted by their
respective governing bodies.

Most
systems already increased pensions by the 1.3% consumer price index
(CPI) this past July. The new law will allow these systems to increase
their COLAs to a full 3%.

"We'll be
working closely with local retirement boards on acceptance of the new
law," said White. "All retirement systems, with the exception of
Hingham, earlier adopted pension fund appropriation schedules that
provide money for three percent. The Boards will not have to go before
city councils, town meetings etc. and ask for more money. They'll
simply be asking for permission to increase pensions by three-percent -
period."

A few systems such as
Haverhill and Essex County did not increase their members' pensions by
1.3% this July, but instead, like the state and teachers, will pay a
full 3% retroactive to July after obtaining approval.

There
will be no 90-day waiting period after the Governor signs the law.
Since the new laws is contained within the budget, which takes effect
upon signing, local sponsors of the COLAs will be able to hit the
ground running.

City Councils and
County Advisory Councils, most of whom meet regularly, will be the
first to act. Towns that have their own retirement systems will, in
most cases, wait until town meetings.

As
we go to press, House and Senate leaders are close to reconciling the
differences in their respective versions of the budget. In fact, it is
possible that the budget may have been passed by the time you read this
edition of the Voice.

"Our
Association's position has been that the delayed state budget has not
been a problem with our members. Reaching an agreement to include the
3% COLA language in the budget was a major victory for our members,"
White pointed out. This may be a self-serving attitude, but if we had
accepted a 1.3% COLA without seeking the 3%, we would not have been
serving our members. A higher base will come later, the 3% is now.

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