3% State & Teacher COLA On $13k Base Included

JULY 9, 2012: On Sunday, Governor Patrick signed the $32.6 billion FY13 state budget into law. Contained within the budget is a new 3% State & Teacher COLA, a minimum survivor pension increase for disability retirees’ survivors and access to the Group Insurance Commission’s retiree dental plan for municipal retirees insured under the state plan.

The budget also maintains long-standing insurance contribution rates for state retirees, which are now set at 90/10, 85/15 and 80/20 depending on date of retirement. Contribution rates for municipal retirees, including retired teachers not insured by the GIC’s Retired Municipal Teacher (RMT) program, are set locally. Retired teachers from the 62 school systems participating in the RMT program are in the 85/15 contribution category, set by the GIC itself.

Patrick’s approval of the full 3% COLA marks the first payment on the new $13,000 base approved last fall within the Chapter 176 Pension Reform law. Eligible retirees, from the State & Teacher Retirement Systems, should see the COLA increase in their July pension checks. Members should look to the upcoming September 2012 Voice, for a full report on local COLA activity.

“We’ve fought since 1997, when we raised the base from $9,000 to $12,000, to increase the state & teachers’ COLA base beyond $12,000. While we had hoped to reach $16,000, the FY13 COLA on a $13,000 is a step in the right direction,” explains Association President Ralph White. “As members well know, we’re bound by constraints of the pension funding schedule. Any increased benefit must be funded within the schedule.”

Survivor Increase & Dental Coverage

Of great importance to those municipal retirees, who receive their insurance through the GIC is a provision, contained within the outside sections of the budget, which allows participation in the state’s retiree-pay-all dental insurance program. Due to a technical glitch in the law, municipal retirees have been denied entrance into the program.

GIC officials are now working with MetLife, the state’s dental insurance vendor, on the logistics of bringing municipal retirees into the program. While the law was effective July 1, an entrance date for the dental plan is yet to be established.

In addition to dental coverage, the Association’s legislative team was also successful in obtaining an increase in survivor’s benefits for survivors of accidental disability retirees, who retired prior to November 1996. The minimum benefit now increases to $12,000, up from $9,000. While taking effect immediately for the State and Teachers’ retirement systems, it is a local option for municipal systems.

The measures were sponsored as amendments by Representative Tackey Chan (D-Quincy) and Senator Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington) respectively.