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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.

2.3% COLA For 2008

Hull, Hingham Early Birds

JANUARY 2008: Retirement Boards, across the Commonwealth, will once again have the opportunity to vote 3% COLAs for their eligible retirees effective July 2008, rather than a 2.3% increase, an alternative option allowed by law.

LOCAL INSURANCE POWERHOUSE

Blue Cross Long Held As Gold Standard

JANUARY 2008: With pressure on local government to control the rising cost of health care at an all-time high, much attention has been brought to the insurance companies that provide the coverage for tens of thousands of local retirees and employees.

STATE DEFICIT EYED IN FY 2009

DECEMBER 18, 2007: Economists and state tax officials have cautioned legislative leaders and the Patrick Administration that the Commonwealth may be on the verge of a recession, with a budget shortfall almost certain for Fiscal Year 2009. However, while the state may undergo some fiscal belt tightening, state officials have made it clear that an early retirement incentive (ERI) is not being considered.

2007 LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS COMPLETE

December 2, 2007: The Joint Committee on Public Service has completed its formal hearing process for the year. All 18 Association bills have now had a public hearing and are awaiting further action at various stages within the legislative process.

TEACHER ELECTION UNDERWAY

NOVEMBER 9, 2007: TEACHERS’ RETIREMENT BOARD ELECTION ENDORSEMENT:

DOW & MITCHELL ENDORSED

The Association is pleased to announce the endorsements of John "Jay" Dow and Karen Mitchell for election to the Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement Board. This election is now underway, with ballots having now been mailed to all retired and active teachers, who are members of the MA Teachers Retirement System (Boston teachers are members of the City of Boston Retirement System and are not members of the MTRS).

A REGRETFUL ANNOUNCEMENT

Billy Rehrey
Billy Rehrey

OCTOBER 22, 2007: We regret to announce the death of Billy Rehrey (age 25), son of Association Executive Vice President/Legal Counsel Bill Rehrey and grandson of Association President Ralph White, died suddenly of a heart attack, while watching Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, at a family gathering on Sunday night.

Update: We wish to thank the many members and friends who sent condolence cards on behalf of the sudden death of Billy Rehrey, the son of Association Legal Counsel/Vice President Bill Rehrey and grandson of Association President Ralph White. The funeral was very uplifting on a sunny autumn day with surrounding foliage at its peak. Also, we thank those who donated to the Cardiac Clinical Research Fund at Children’s Hospital.

 

                                Bill Rehrey        Ralph White