Agrees With House On $16,000 State/Teacher Base

May 23, 2008:
After two days of
intense lobbying and as debate on the ’09 State Budget was winding down last
night, the Senate passed the Association’s local option proposal for a new
$16,000 COLA base, as part of its version of the Fiscal ’09 State Budget. While
much still needs to be done to ensure that the proposal remains intact in the
Budget’s final version, the Senate’s action marks a major milestone in the
Association’s continuing efforts to improve the COLA for all retirees – state,
teacher and local.

As we reported on May 14, the Senate Way and
Means included sections for a $16,000 COLA base for state and teacher retirees.
These sections were approved by the full Senate and mirror the section in the
House’s budget that provided the same increase in the COLA base.

While the Senate Ways and Means’ budget also
included an increase to $16,000 for local retirees, it was generally recognized
that the language, providing for this increase, needed to be amended in order
to reach enactment. As a result, the Association sought the help of Senators
Marian Walsh (D-West Roxbury) and Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy) who introduced
Amendment #81 to the proposed Senate budget.

Our Amendment #81 established a new
$16,000 Local COLA base, subject to local approval and not surprisingly,
triggered an all-out fight with the Mass Municipal Association (MMA), to which
we responded in kind (See May 20 Breaking News). As part of its attack, MMA
repeatedly emphasized that the 266 towns, belonging to county or regional
systems, did not have an adequate voice in accepting a higher COLA base. As
debate continued over the past 2 days, it became evident that the Senate
leadership could not agree with us that our Amendment #81 gave sufficient
representation to these towns.

Senate Way & Means requested
that we redraft Amendment #81 so that towns, in county/regional systems, would
have a larger vote in accepting a higher COLA base. As a result, we were forced
to compromise in redrafting our Amendment, multiple times, until we reached
acceptable language. A copy of Redrafted Amendment #81 has been attached.

Since the House did not include a
local option for a higher COLA base in its version of the Budget, the Local
COLA Base will be subject to negotiations during the Senate/House Budget
Conference. The language for the state and teacher COLA base of $16,000 is
almost identical in both branches and should not be a subject of the Conference
Committee which will consist of three conferees from each branch, led by the
respective chairmen of their Ways & Means Committees.

More details – including our
recognition of all those who helped us in this fight – will be reported in the
upcoming July Voice. Please watch for
updates on this site and listen to the Association’s 24 hour Hotline.