Appoints White to Commission

JANUARY 16, 2009: In his annual State of the State Address, Governor Deval Patrick repeated his call for so-called pension reform, urging the Legislature to work with him to enact changes this year. Retirees should be aware that current pension benefits are protected by law and cannot be altered or repealed.

Last summer, a fifteen-member Pension Reform Commission was created within the FY09 Budget. The governor has named Association President Ralph White to represent retirees on the Commission. White will also be the only “labor” representative on the Commission, which is, predominately, comprised of government officials and a handful of private sector individuals.


While the governor finalizes his appointments and gets the Pension Reform Commission underway, House Speaker Sal DiMasi has established his own Pension Reform Committee within the House of Representatives. This special committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), is expected to act quickly and report back to the full House with “reform” recommendations sometime this winter.


The Speakers Pension Reform Committee is comprised of Representatives Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Boston), Martin Walsh (D-Boston), James O’Day (D-Worcester), Allen McCarthy (D-East Bridgewater), William Strauss (D-Mattapoisett) , Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington), Mary Grant (D-Beverly), Ellen Story (D-Amherst) , Thomas Conroy (D-Wayland), James Miceli (D-Wilmington) and Todd Smola (R-Palmer).


Kaufman, who has led the Joint Committee on Public Service for the past four years, is a close friend and ally of the Association. He is largely responsible for the advancement of our Association’s COLA legislation during the last session and has vowed to make an examination of COLA benefits a centerpiece of any “reform” considerations.


Governor Patrick and Legislative Leaders are under increased pressure from the general public and media to close so-called loopholes in the pension law. Areas under examination are the definition of Regular Compensation, Section 10 termination allowances, and group classification.


“Fortunately the governor has made it clear that he firmly supports our defined benefit (DB) pension plan. It is also important to say that these potential changes do not impact current retirees in any way,” explained White. “While there might be a few areas where things can be tightened up, our overall pension system is well run, fair, and a good value to the taxpayers.


“We need to remember that the system was not properly funded by the state and municipalities until 1988. Before that time, it was almost entirely funded by employee contributions on a pay-as-you-go basis. It is easy to focus on a small handful of sensationalized cases, but what about the countess number of retirees living on very meager benefits?


“For this Commission and Committee to be successful there must be a wide range of issues addressed in any legislation that emerges. COLA benefits have not changed in twelve years, while some surviving spouses receive pensions that barely cover the cost of health insurance. These are the people I want to help and the issues I will be focused on.”