Mass. Municipal Association Strikes Again

Attempt to Kill $16,000 COLA Base

May 20, 2008: The Mass. Municipal
Association – the advocacy arm of the Commonwealth’s mayors and town managers –
has struck again. This time it was an 11th hour letter to all State
Senators opposing a Senate budget amendment that would allow municipal retirees
to receive a three-percent COLA on a $16,000 base, up from the current $12,000.

Members
will recall that in 1997 the MMA attempted to kill our proposed local option
legislation (Ch. 17) that
would allow local retirement boards, with the acceptance of its legislative
body, to pay an annual COLA on a new $12,000 base. Prior to Ch. 17, there had
been only three COLAs over a nine-year period. Thank goodness, the MMA was
defeated and local boards have been responsibly voting 3% COLAs every year
since that time.

But now,
on the eve of May 21-22, Senate floor debate, the MMA is again attempting, with
false claims to kill our pending amendment (Floor Amendment #81) to Section 15
of the S2600 the FY’09 State Budget. We believe that Amendment #81 is a
reasonable and necessary amendment to Section 15, which would make acceptance
of a $16,000 base subject to local approval. Separate items in both the House and Senate budgets provide for a
$16,000 base for the state and teachers’ retirement systems.

Our
Amendment No. 81 adopts the same process that local systems adhered to in
accepting the local COLA law (Sec. 103 of Ch. 32), some 11 years ago, and other
local acceptance provisions within Chapter 32. Legislative history clearly does
not support MMA’s baseless assertion that it cannot serve the best interests of
all interested parties when determining locally if and how a raise in the COLA
base can be achieved.

The MMA
has sent letters to every Senator urging them to oppose our Amendment #81 to
Section 15, and create a study, the same strategy that they unsuccessfully
utilized in 1997. Their letter is replete with falsehoods concerning our
Amendment, and if allowed to stand unanswered, would be the kiss of death to
our sensible local option proposal.

For
example, a major scare tactic of the MMA applies to counties and regional
systems, which encompass 266 towns (no cities), saying they would have no voice
in acceptance of a $16,000 base. That’s wrong. To characterize advisory
councils to the county/regional systems, which comprises all the treasurers of
participating towns, districts and units, as being “unaccountable” amounts to
nothing more than an unfair attack upon these officials (many, if not all, belong
to the MMA) as being irresponsible at best.

Again,
county or regional system’s acceptance of any Ch. 32 change, including Section
103, has worked and continues to work. There is no reason to take away the
right and obligation of local retirement boards, with their legislative bodies,
to study and determine if and how they may adopt a higher COLA base.

Finally,
we ask that you call your Senator at the State House and urge their support of
Amendment #81. It represents the traditional and proper approach to local
acceptance of retirement benefit changes to Chapter 32 and should be applied at
this time.

Thank you
for your support and help on this issue of utmost importance to all local
retirees.

Tags: