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BREAKTHROUGH ON COLA BASE

SEPTEMBER 2008: A vote by the House and Senate, during the closing hours of the 2008 formal legislative session, has made it possible for eligible members of the State and Teachers’ Retirement Systems to receive three-percent COLAs calculated on a new $16,000 base.

(Editors Note: Shortly after going to press with this story, contained in the September issue of the Voice, Governor Patrick vetoed the legislation that would have increased the base to $16,000 in 2008)

A MESSAGE FROM ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT RALPH WHITE

To All Members, Regretfully, our attempt to increase the $12,000 COLA base to $16,000 for members of the State and Teachers’ Retirement Systems did not achieve success this year. Although the House and Senate enacted legislation, which would have extended the base to $16,000, the bill was returned to the Legislature by Governor Patrick with an amendment that extended the base to $16,000 only for retirees with annual pensions of under $40,000. Before being sent back to the Governor, the Legislature added a further amendment that would exclude pensions of over $40,000 from the $16,000 base, but only for one year. After a one-year sunset provision, the $16,000 base would have been effective for all pensions. The Governor then vetoed the bill, saying it did not include his “compromise language” and expressed concern about adding significant costs to the Commonwealth’s large unfunded liability. Since at the time of the veto the Legislature had adjourned from formal session for the remainder of the year, there was no opportunity to override the veto. This could only be accomplished in a formal session.

GOVERNOR VETOS COLA LEGISLATION

Association Officials Express Outrage

AUGUST 8, 2008: Governor Deval Patrick has vetoed H4959, the Association sponsored bill that would have raised the COLA base to $16,000 for state and teacher retirees. Association officials are outraged, after having agreed to what was thought to have been compromise legislation in the final days of the formal legislative session. Under Joint Rules, the House and Senate are not scheduled to reconvene in full formal session again until January, thus ruling out any hope of a 2008 veto override.

GLOBE & HERALD CALL FOR COLA VETO

Association Calls On Members To Act

AUGUST 5, 2008: On Tuesday, both of the Commonwealth’s major daily newspapers had lead editorials urging Governor Deval Patrick to veto legislation that would raise the COLA base for state and teacher retirees. The bill, H4959, was enacted by the Legislature and sent to the governor on Thursday, July 31. It increases the COLA base to $16,000 for those eligible retirees with pensions less than $40,000.

STATE & TEACHER COLA BACK TO GOVERNOR

Legislature Re Approves $16,000 Base

August 1, 2008: In the final hours of the formal 2007-2008 Legislative Session, the House and Senate re approved a new $16,000 COLA base for retired state employees and teachers, including those teachers who are members of the Boston Retirement System. H4959 is now once again before Governor Deval Patrick awaiting his approval. Association officials anticipate that the governor will approve the measure within the coming ten days, which will then take effect retroactively to July 1, 2008.

COLA BASE UPDATE

Proposal Remains in House

JULY 25, 2008: With a less than a week to go before the end of formal legislative activity for the 2007-2008 session on July 31, the Association’s proposal to increase the COLA base to $16,000 remains before the House of Representatives. The COLA increase, which was passed for retired state employees and teachers as part of the FY09 State Budget, was returned to the Legislature by Governor Patrick on July 12, with a counter proposal by the Governor that would limit thenew base to those retirees with pensions less than $40,000.

HOUSE KEY TO STATE/TEACHER COLA INCREASE

JULY 18, 2008: The prospect of an increased COLA base in 2008 for retired state employees and teachers is now in the hands of the House of Representatives. As members may know, last weekend Governor Deval Patrick rejected the $16,000 COLA base language contained in the FY09 State Budget and sent a counter proposal to the Legislature that would limit the new base to those retirees with pensions of less than $40,000. With the Consumer Price Index (CPI) now at 5.7% through June, raising the COLA base has become an even greater concern for retirees on fixed incomes.

COLA ALERT

JULY 15,
2008:
On Sunday, Governor Deval Patrick
signed the FY’09 State Budget into law, which then took effect immediately. The
governor did not approve the $16,000 COLA base for retired state employees and
teachers, the had been included in the legislative section of the budget, as
passed by the House and Senate. Instead, Governor Patrick chose to propose a new
COLA scheme contained in a new section: 12A. This section, if approved, by the
House and Senate, would limit the $16,000 base to retirees with annual pensions
under $40,000. Those with pensions of $40,000 or above would retain a $12,000
base.

LEGISLATURE APPROVES $16,000 STATE/TEACHER COLA BASE

Local Systems Put On Hold

July 3, 2008: The State Legislature has approved a new $16,000 COLA base for retirees of the State and Teachers’ Retirement Systems (effective this month), but has held off on a local option provision that would have allowed city, town, county, regional, and district systems to also increase the base for local retirees.

ASSOCIATION AWAITS WORD ON COLA BASE INCREASE

JUNE 24, 2008: It does not appear that the House and Senate State Budget Conference Committee will release its FY09 state budget report this week. As members are aware, the fate of an increase to the COLA base now rests with the six-member Conference Committee and the Legislative Leadership.

MEMO TO ALL MEMBERS: COLA UPDATE

June 12,
2008
- We are now
approaching the final days of meetings between the House and Senate FY’09 State
Budget Conference Committee members. While the House and Senate earlier voted
on a new $16,000 COLA base for state and teacher retirees, subject to a final
budget vote, the House budget did not include local government retirees.
However, the Senate did unanimously vote for an amendment, which would include
retires for all of our 104 local retirement systems.

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.