Association Officials Express Outrage

AUGUST 8, 2008: Governor Deval Patrick has vetoed H4959, the Association sponsored bill that would have raised the COLA base to $16,000 for state and teacher retirees. Association officials are outraged, after having agreed to what was thought to have been compromise legislation in the final days of the formal legislative session. Under Joint Rules, the House and Senate are not scheduled to reconvene in full formal session again until January, thus ruling out any hope of a 2008 veto override.


In his veto message, Patrick cited the fact that the Legislature chose to sunset his proposal to means test the COLA base as his reason for vetoing the bill. In addition, the governor had become concerned that the addition of the Boston teachers in the bill placed too large a financial burden on the state budget. However, Association officials pointed out that the state has paid the pension costs for Boston teachers for at least the past 60 years, including the costs of all COLAs.


“I view this as a personal defeat,” said Association President Ralph White. “We knew this was not going to be easy, but with this Democratic governor we had hope. It has taken us five years to get to this point and I’m not going to allow a late veto to be the final word. Even though it now won’t happen in 2008, our Association is going to take this fight right into the next session come January.


“What is now clear is that the opponents of a COLA increase stopped at nothing to defeat this bill. There have been front page stories and lead editorials in nearly every paper in the state, spreading falsehoods about the COLA and our public retirement systems. As outraged as I am at the governor for vetoing this bill, he has the chance to make things right in the coming months through the special commission that has been formed to study our retirement benefits over the next ten months.”


Association officials were quick to pledge that any new COLA legislation will include all members, with a local option provision for municipal retirees viewed as a critical component.


“Despite this setback, I feel a debt of gratitude to the thousands of members who answered our call to get involved in the lobbying efforts for a higher COLA base. Our staff worked very hard to get this done for our members and it is a huge let down for everyone. But this is not the end of this fight, not by a longshot,” continued White.