Baker Rejects Part-Time Work Limit Increase

Baker Rejects Part-Time Work Limit Increase
Governor Charlie Baker

Mass Retirees Shocked By Governor’s Counter Proposal

JULY 26, 2018: Governor Charlie Baker has rejected a Mass Retirees proposal that would increase the hourly limit for retirees returning to part-time public sector work. Our proposal, which was also backed by the Mass Police and Professional Fire Fighters, was passed within the FY19 State budget as outside section 29.

The proposal would have only increased the annual hourly limit from the current 960 hours to 1,200. It did not alter the limit on annual earnings. Mass Retirees advocated for the increase because the current limit, which averages just 18.5 hours a week, is inadequate in today’s modern workforce.

Essentially, the governor has proposed limiting all non-public safety personnel to just 975 hours of part-time work annual – but allowing certain retired police, fire and correction officers the ability to work indefinite hours AND not be subjected to the current earnings restrictions imposed on all other retirees (the department of education can currently declare a critical shortage of teachers, allowing retired educators to return to work without hourly or earnings restrictions).

“We find it shocking that Governor Baker would block a modest increase in hourly part-time work limits for working class retirees, while opening the flood gates for certain public safety retirees to work without any limits whatsoever. This is bad public policy that could result in the gaming of the system,” said Association President Frank Valeri, who retired as a Deputy Director from the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC). “When I was at PERAC we worked with the legislature to close loopholes and end practices where a handful of people found ways to game the system. It makes no sense to create this waiver.” 

Under the Mass Retirees proposal passed within Section 29, the limit on earnings remains unchanged for retirees who return to government service. In addition to the hourly restriction, public retirees cannot earn more than the difference between their pension and what their former public job currently pays – plus an additional $15,000 through part-time government work within Massachusetts.

Despite the new limit of 1,200 hours averaging just 23 hours per week, Baker raised concerns about the proposal stating:

[A]n increase of 240 more hours per year is a significant policy change and moves the Commonwealth and its municipalities closer to a place where employees continue to work near full-time while collecting a pension, without any corresponding changes to improve the current practice.  As a result, I am proposing a modest increase in the number of hours from the current 960 hours to 975, which more accurately reflects half-time. This change will allow for some flexibility to retired employees who are bumping into the current 960 hour limit. Further, I am proposing a waiver to the hours cap for public safety personnel when a “critical shortage” is determined. This mechanism currently exists for retired education personnel in the Commonwealth.

Superannuation retirees working in the private sector, the federal government or in public service outside of Massachusetts have no earnings or hourly restrictions. Earnings restrictions are placed on all disability retirees, regardless of place of employment.

Mass Retirees has called on the legislature to reject the governor’s proposal and send back the Section 29 as originally drafted. Governor Baker would then have an additional ten days in which to act on the proposal. 

With the Legislature ending formal sessions on July 31st, little time remains in 2018 to override a potential veto of Section 29. Should the governor veto the proposal after July 31st, the legislature will no longer be in session to override the veto. In that case, the current law would remain on the books until such time when the legislature revisits the issue in a future session. A new bill would have to be filed, receive a public hearing and pass both the House and Senate.