Local Systems Put On Hold

July 3, 2008: The State Legislature has approved a new $16,000 COLA base for retirees of the State and Teachers’ Retirement Systems (effective this month), but has held off on a local option provision that would have allowed city, town, county, regional, and district systems to also increase the base for local retirees.

As members may recall, identical language increasing the COLA base for the state/teachers’ systems was included in both the House and Senate versions of the FY 09 state budget. However our amendment, which provided the same opportunity for the local retirement systems, was a Senate amendment only.
Despite four weeks of extensive lobbying on behalf of our local members, the Conference Committee excluded Section 15 of the Senate’s version of the budget. The intense lobbying in opposition to the local option, put forth by the Mass Municipal Association, city and town officials, and backed-up by a massive media campaign proved to be successful.
When the final vote was taken by the House and Senate to enact the budget and send it to Governor Deval Patrick, it was a straight up or down vote on the conference report and thus no floor amendments were allowed.
The budget does contain a new outside section, taking the place of the Senate’s original Section 15, which creates a special 15 member commission to study the specific issues relating to the acceptance of the local COLA base increase. This Commission, on which the Association will hold a seat, is also charged with conducting a broader review and making a report on the 106 retirement systems as a whole.
“Without local retirees being given the option of a higher base, this is not a full victory for our Association. We represent all public retirees equally, regardless of where someone is retired from,” said Association President Ralph White. “For forty years, we have fought for all retirees to be treated equally and that does not change now. Our top priority is to raise the base to $16,000 for all members.

“Unfortunately, the negative campaign put forth by the MMA worked, at least in the short term. It will now be the job of this new special commission to set the record straight and tell the truth about our public retirement benefits. Our Association will do its part in moving a local option provision forward as soon as possible.”