JAN 2007 - Appointees Oppose Benefit Increase - In what can only be viewed as a backhanded dismissal of retirees, Governor Mitt Romney has allowed his hand-picked appointees to the state’s Group Insurance Commission, to vote down a plan that would have increased the basic life insurance for state retirees.

As members are aware, the state’s Group Insurance Commission had been
working on a proposal that would raise the basic life insurance for
both employees and retirees from the current $5,000 benefit to $10,000.
The benefit has been frozen at its current rate since 1985.

After being postponed for several  months, the eleven member Commission
voted unanimously at its October meeting to increase the basic life
insurance benefit to $10,000 for active employees only. Under the
proposal, retirees would remain at $5,000.
Romney administration officials and appointees, led by budget aide,
Peter Schwarzenbach, vocally opposed the plan put forth by the GIC
staff, which would have included retirees in the increase. Despite a
detailed explanation by Executive Director Dolores Mitchell as to the
merits of including retirees, the Commissioners were unmoved.

“It was obvious from the conversations held over the past few months
that the Romney Administration was not interested in extending this
benefit to retirees. In fact, the governor’s appointees seemed to be
searching for reasons not to cover retirees,” said Association
Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “What is most upsetting is that not
a single Commissioner had the courage to do the right thing.
“We have to give a lot of credit to Dolores Mitchell and the GIC staff.
They did all they could do to include retirees in the proposal, but the
Romney representatives just would not have it,” continued Duhamel.
“Their philosophy has been anti-retiree. Hopefully with a new
administration coming in, we will see a different mindset.
“Thankfully the report, completed by Michael Kelleher (GIC staff), is
very thorough and includes an analysis of the retiree costs, which are
critical to us as we move forward. Most importantly, the Commissioners
are not the final word on this issue.”

Legislative Action Sought
Despite the action taken by the GIC to only recommend increasing the
basic life insurance benefit for active employees and not retirees, the
final word will come from the Legislature.
Association officials are once again filing legislation for the coming
session that will increase the basic life insurance for both retirees
and active employees to $10,000 (see page 9). In the past, the bill has
enjoyed broad bipartisan support.
“The problem we have run into in the past with this proposal is that we
did not have a cost analysis to show the Legislature. Now that the GIC
has conducted the study, we have the numbers to prove the increase is
affordable,” explains Association President Ralph White. “We expected
to be short changed by the Romney Administration. But they are no
longer in the picture. This is an affordable and long overdue increase,
which should be viewed favorably.”