Former Speaker Remembered For His Pension Legislation Leadership

2007 MAR - Although former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Thomas Finneran, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice this January and was pilloried by the news media as expected, it is only fair that our members be reminded of Finneran’s work on behalf of public sector retirees and survivors.

For example, the fact that our members are receiving a three percent
COLA each year can largely be attributed to Finneran’s efforts back in
1997.

Prior to 1997, there had been a serious drought on the state’s
ability to pay COLAs to its retirees. Earlier, in the wake of Prop 2
1/2 in 1980, the state picked up the cost of local government retirees’
COLAs. However, beginning in 1989, the Legislature and Governor had
granted only three COLAs over a nine-year period. The cost of paying
for local COLAs was adding over $100 million yearly to the state’s
(state & teachers) unfunded pension liability.

“Everyone was a loser, state and local retirees alike,” said
Association President Ralph White. “Working with Tom Finneran, we were
successful in enacting 1997 legislation, (Chapter 17), which beginning
in 1998, has allowed county and municipal retirement boards to vote
each year on 3% COLAs on a new $12,000 base (formerly $9,000), while
the Legislature, relieved of the fiscal responsibility for new local
COLAs, voted each year for state and teacher retirees.”

“It wasn’t an easy win. The Mass. Municipal Association and the
Mayors’ Association lobbied strongly against the enabling legislation.
But Tom Finneran and his Majority Leader Sal DiMasi prevailed after a
lengthy floor battle in the House.”

“Tom Finneran certainly had his detractors,” said Association
Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel who worked closely with Finneran over
the years. “To the glee of some, he is also paying dearly for his
mistake. However, when it comes to our state’s pension fund he was
certainly the guardian at the gate and will always be deserving of our
recognition.”

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