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HOUSE/SENATE COMMITTEE REVIEWS COLA PROPOSAL

Association Remains Vigilant

JUNE 6, 2008: House and Senate leaders have now appointed a six-member conference committee to negotiate the differences that exist between the House and Senate versions of the FY09 state budget. The Committee consists of three members each from both branches of the Legislature.

LOCAL COLA BASE

REDRAFT LOC 81

Ms. Walsh, Ms. Jehlen and Ms. Menard and Mssrs. Morrissey, Galluccio, Timility, Hart, Pacheco and Marzilli moved that the bill be amended by deleting Section 15 and inserting in place thereof the following section:

SENATE PASSES ASSOCIATION

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.

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.

CAHILL OPPOSES COLA INCREASE PROPOSAL

Cites ‘Fictitious’ Dangers To Bond Rating

MAY 15, 2008: Striking a body blow to the Association’s hopes of raising the base, to which the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) is applied, state Treasurer and Receiver General Timothy Cahill has come out against the proposed $16,000 base, passed by the House and contained in the Senate’s FY09 budget. Specifically, the treasurer, who chairs the state’s pension board, is against extending the pension funding schedule by three-years to accommodate this modest increase in the COLA base.

SENATE ENDORSES $16,000 COLA BASE

Budget Rider Includes State, Teacher and Local Retirees

MAY 14, 2008: Providing a major boost to public retirees, Senate leaders unveiled their version of the Fiscal 2009 State Budget that includes language raising the COLA base to $16,000. The three outside sections of S2600 raise the base not only for state and teacher retirees, but also allow local retirement systems to provide the same $16,000 COLA base for local retirees.

IMPORTANT COLA BASE ALERT

An amendment to raise the pension COLA base to $16,000 for state and teacher retirees was adopted by a 153-0 vote during House debate on May 2nd. The amendment, which was offered by Representative Frank Hynes (D-Marshfield), came during the final day of House debate on the FY ’09 State Budget. Because the amendment included a provision to extend the state’s unfunded pension liability payment schedule from the current date of 2023 to 2026, local government retirement systems, which have their own individual funding schedules, could not be included in Rep. Hynes’s amendment. It is important to our Association that all retirees, state and local, have the same opportunity to increase their COLA base from $12,000 to $16,000.

HOUSE PASSES 3% COLA IN BUDGET

MAY 2, 2008: As the Massachusetts House of Representatives worked to complete their annual budget deliberations, Association officials are confident that the 3% cost-of-living increase (COLA) contained within the budget is secure for 2008. The 3% increase, which takes effect in July, is applied to a maximum base of $12,000.

UPDATE: Stimulus Checks Now Being Mailed

dugan_mary_ann.jpgMary Ann Dugan of Medford is our first “confirmed” member to have received a US Treasury check under the federal Economic Stimulus Program. She was eligible because she showed a tax liability of over $600 on her IRS 1040 report.

“I went online on April twenty eighth to check my bank account and was surprised to see that a $600 stimulus check had been credited to my account that morning,” Dugan reported. While the intent of the program was to improve the economy by recipients going on a spending splurge, that wasn’t so in Mary Ann’s case. “I used the money to pay bills. It cost me $45 just to fill the near-empty tank of my Mercury Sable. I don’t think many retirees are going out and buying new HDTV’s (high definition) with their check,” the Department of Mental Retardation retiree said with a chuckle.

We would be interested in hearing from other members who received their stimulus checks.

STATE INSURANCE INCREASES AVERAGE 6.5%

MAY 2008: Following the announcement in February that all existing health plan contracts will be extended for at least another year, the state’s thirteen-member Group Insurance Commission (GIC) approved the new health insurance rates for Fiscal Year 2009.

NORTH ADAMS WAS TOP FUND IN '07

MAY 2008: Three local retirement boards, North Adams, Malden and Northampton, were the top three winners in our annual, unofficial, Pension Fund Investment Earnings Contest for Year 2007. 

UPDATE: More Retirees May Be Eligible For Stimulus Payment:

MAY 2, 2008: When the economic stimulus package was signed by President Bush on February 13, Association staff began reviewing information, released by the Internal Revenue Service, detailing the new federal law. Based on our reading of the IRS material at that time, we believed that public retirees could not use their pension income in order to qualify for the stimulus payment.

STONEHAM INSURANCE DEBATE CONTINUES

Meeting Between Stoneham Selectmen and Retired Teachers Cancelled, Negotiations Between Town’s Labor Leaders And Town Manager Tentative

The meeting between the Stoneham Board of Selectmen and Stoneham’s retired teachers scheduled for April 22 was cancelled. This meeting was to be held for the purpose of withdrawing retired teachers from the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC).

PENSION INVESTMENT BOARD ELECTION UNDERWAY

Association’s Paul Shanley Our Choice

paul_shanley.jpgActive and retired members of the State Retirement System have received ballots for a very important election at the State Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) Board.

STATE GIC SETS 2008 INSURANCE RATES

MARCH 9, 2008: The state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) has approved the insurance rates for Fiscal Year 2009, which begins July 1, 2008. On average, the state-run public retiree and employee healthcare plans will increase 6.4%. Last year, rates increased 3.78% following an average increase of 7.47% in 2006. Each year the GIC has posted increases well below the state and national averages.

SOCIAL SECURITY OFFSETS TAKE NATIONAL TOLL

MARCH 2008: At times, members who have lost part or all of their Social Security benefit to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) or Government Pension Offset (GPO) may feel as if they are alone in their fight to repeal both federal laws.

PATRICK BUDGET: 3% COLA

NO CHANGE IN RETIREE HEALTH INSURANCE CONTRIBUTION

MARCH 2008: There were few surprises when Governor Deval Patrick unveiled his proposed $28.2 billion Fiscal ’09 State Budget and sent it to the Legislature on January 22. The three-percent July ’08 COLA for state and teacher retirees, as promised, was included in his budget. And, as we were earlier informed, the 10% insurance premium contribution for state pensioners, who retired prior to July 1, 1994, and 15% for those who retired after that date, will not change.

RAISE COLA BASE NOW

MARCH 2008: Starting with a special study in 2004, the Association has spent the past four years moving the debate forward on raising the COLA base to a higher level. In 2005, the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) recommended that the COLA base be raised from the current level of $12,000 to a new level of $16,000. The current $12,000 base was established by the Legislature nearly eleven years ago in 1997.

US HOUSE HOLDS KEY HEARING ON WEP/GPO

MARCH 2008: Following through on his commitment to fully examine the potential repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), US Congressman Michael McNulty (D-NY) chaired a key January hearing that put the spotlight on Social Security reform for public retirees.

STATE'S PENSION FUND EARNED ALMOST 12% IN '07

MARCH 2008: Although the Commonwealth pension fund continued its run of double digit earnings for the fifth straight year in 2007, this January’s market dive raised concern among managers of pension funds everywhere. "Year 2007 was a good one for the State’s PRIT Fund," said Association President Ralph White. "January’s storm clouds were not completely unexpected, but we’ll recover," said the ever-optimistic White.

SOCIAL SECURITY COUNTS TOWARD TAX REBATE

FEBRUARY 14, 2008: Retirees, who have at least $3,000 in earned income for 2007 may be eligible for the federal tax rebate, signed into law by President Bush today. For the purpose of the tax rebate, “earned income” includes earnings from employment, including Social Security. In other words, if a retiree has earned at least $3,000 in 2007, from a job or Social Security, then they may be eligible for the rebate scheduled to be paid in May. Also, in order to qualify for a rebate, a 2007 tax return must be filed with the IRS.

TAX REBATES NOW LAW

FEBRUARY 12, 2008: On Monday President Bush signed the Economic Stimulus Package into law, thus approving the highly anticipated tax rebate. While it is clear that Social Security income can now be counted toward earned income, Association officials are now analyzing the new law and will update members as to its key provisions on Wednesday.

FEDERAL TAX REBATES EYED

JANUARY 28, 2008: Association officials are closely monitoring developments in Washington D.C. relative to the so-called tax rebates now being debated on Capital Hill. The tax rebates are a critical part of a larger Economic Stimulus Package endorsed by President George W. Bush and passed by the US House last week. Now before the US Senate, the proposal is under considerable scrutiny as the details are being worked out.

 

HOUSE TO HOLD WEP/GPO HEARING

JANUARY 9, 2008: The US House of Representatives will hold a public hearing on Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) on Wednesday January 16, 2008. Association official will be submitting testimony to the Committee on Social Security, which is conducting the invitation only hearing.