HOUSE KEY TO STATE/TEACHER COLA INCREASE

JULY 18, 2008: The prospect of an increased COLA base in 2008 for retired state employees and teachers is now in the hands of the House of Representatives. As members may know, last weekend Governor Deval Patrick rejected the $16,000 COLA base language contained in the FY09 State Budget and sent a counter proposal to the Legislature that would limit the new base to those retirees with pensions of less than $40,000. With the Consumer Price Index (CPI) now at 5.7% through June, raising the COLA base has become an even greater concern for retirees on fixed incomes.

As previously stated, the Association is opposed to Governor Patrick’s suggestion to apply means testing to a new $16,000 COLA base. Treating retirees differently based on arbitrary pension amounts is the wrong approach. It is also unfair to use the size of one's pension as a determination of a retiree’s financial status. Pension size is not an accurate gauge. Therefore, we have called on the Legislature to stand by their earlier unanimous votes to increase the COLA base to $16,000 in 2008.
Association officials spent the past week working closely with lobbyists from the MA Teachers Association and our allies in the House of Representatives to bring about swift action on the COLA legislation returned by the governor, which is now H4959. While the Legislature ends its formal business for the year on July 31, the House leadership has yet to announce when H4959 will be brought to the floor for debate and a final vote. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Bills and Third Reading, chaired by Rep. Thomas Golden (D-Lowell).
Regardless of the size of your pension, if you are a retired state employee or teacher then we ask that you contact your State Representative and ask that they maintain their support for a $16,000 base for all retirees. With federal officials now anticipating this year’s CPI to exceed 7%, a $16,000 base is a small step toward helping retirees to combat inflation.
Members, who are retired from local governments, have been forced to wait until 2009 for a higher base to arrive at the local level. As previously reported, intense pressure from the media, city and town officials, and various conservative think tanks resulted in the Legislature opting not to allow for a local COLA option at this time. Instead, a special 15-member commission was created, on which our Association is represented, that will study the financial impact of the local COLA over the coming year.
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