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PENSION REFORM DEBATE UNDERWAY

Retirees Not Impacted By Changes

APRIL 13, 2009: Legislative leaders are quickly advancing legislation that will redefine some aspects of the Massachusetts defined benefit pension plan. Know as “pension reform”, this legislative action follows several year’s worth of media expose’ that allege pension abuse by a small number of individuals “gaming” the system.

While the proposed changes do not impact the pension benefits of any current retirees, some changes may impact current public employees. The Senate passed its version (S2026) of a pension reform bill on March 31 and the House is expected to debate a similar bill (H4054) on Tuesday, April 14.

GIC OPEN ENROLLMENT NOW UNDERWAY

APRIL 11, 2009: The state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) is now holding its annual open enrollment period, during which retirees and employees are allowed to make changes in their insurance coverage (effective July 1, 2009). With nearly 300,000 state and local retirees and employees now insured under the state plan, a large portion of Association members are impacted.

During open enrollment, which runs from April 13 to May 15, 2009, the GIC will hold 18 health fairs across the state. The health fairs, attended by GIC and insurance company officials, provide an excellent opportunity for members seeking additional information about their insurance coverage to speak directly with the people responsible.

RETIREE STIMULUS PAYMENTS BEGIN IN MAY

MARCH 28, 2009: Vice President Joseph Biden announced Friday that federal stimulus payments to Social Security recipients will take place in May. The one-time $250 payment, included within the $825 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be made in a separate check and is payable to all retirees who receive Social Security benefits.

Public retirees, who do not receive a Social Security benefit, will receive a $250 tax rebate paid by the IRS. Unfortunately, non Social Security retirees must wait until they file their 2009 taxes (filed in 2010) in order to receive the stimulus payment.

LEGISLATIVE WORK UNDERWAY

Spellane & McGee Chair Public Service

MARCH 20, 2009: As state leaders ramp up efforts to close a growing deficit for the current FY09 fiscal year, House and Senate budget writers work to assemble the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, while Legislative committees begin their work on the thousands of pending bills.

With monthly revenue collections continuing to fall lower than anticipated, current estimates set the remaining deficit at $500 million, with the potential to grow to $1 billion by the end of June. Roughly $2.5 billion has already been cut from the FY09 budget, which began last July. New House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Murphy (D-Burlington) is working closely with his Senate counterpart, Senator Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell) to craft the FY2010 budget with an anticipated budget shortfall surpassing $4 billion.

IMPORTANT NOTICE TO MEMBERS OF THE STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEM

Dear Members of the State Retirement System: You will shortly receive a ballot for a very important election at the State Retirement Board.

Theresa McGoldrick, who sits along with Ralph White as one of the two elected members on the State Retirement Board, is running for reelection for a new three-year term. Because elections are staggered, Theresa’s is the only election this year.

STATE HOLDS DOWN INSURANCE RATES

OME Plan Costs Drop

MARCH 7, 2009: Officials with the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) have announced the insurance rates for FY10, which begins on July 1. The average increase across all GIC sponsored plans is 3.1%, with an actual price reduction for the Optional Medicare Extension (OME) plan.

While insurance costs have risen across the Commonwealth and country between 5-6% on average, the GIC has once again managed to come in with significantly lower increases. This is good news for the 325,000 state retirees and employees, retired teachers, and retired and active local employees now enrolled in the state insurance plans.

WEP AND GPO REPEAL GAINS SUPPORT IN WASHINGTON

MA Delegation Cosponsors Bills

FEBRUARY 27, 2008: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has reintroduced her bill to repeal the dreaded Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO). The bill, S484, has ten initial cosponsors and is now before the Senate Finance Committee.

John Kerry (D-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) are among the more notable Senators, from key retiree states, sponsoring the bill. Kerry remains chairman of the Subcommittee on Social Security, and is now the 5th ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, which now holds S484 under review.

ICE STORM OF 2008 WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN

Worse Than Blizzard of ‘78

In the annals of Central Massachusetts, the ice storm of this past December 11-12 is rated as worse than the Blizzard of ’78 in severity and hardship for many members.

With little warning, other than expected freezing rain on the eve of December 11, members were awakened during the night by a widespread power outage and the sound of trees snapping. When dawn arrived it appeared that he world had returned to a veritable Ice Age. And winter was still 10 days away.

STIMULUS PAYMENTS & TAX BREAKS COMING FOR RETIREES

FEBRUARY 18, 2009: Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Package) signed by President Barack Obama on February 17, retirees who are now receiving Social Security will receive a one-time stimulus check of $250.00.

Retirees who are currently working will be treated the same as other wage-earners, specifically by a reduction of their tax withholdings up to a total of $400 ($800 per couple). And retirees who are neither working nor collecting Social Security will be applying to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for their $250 payment. 

PUBLIC RETIREES INCLUDED IN STIMULUS

FEBRUARY 16, 2009: With the inclusion of non-Social Security retirees in the federal stimulus bill now before President Obama, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has won a crucial fight on behalf of public retirees.

With the help of several members of the state’s Congressional delegation, Kerry was able to win Conference Committee approval of his amendment to grant public retirees the federal stimulus payment. The payment, which is contained within the Make Work Pay provisions in the $787 billion legislation, equals $250 per retiree.