State/Teacher COLA Fight Shifts To House

SEPTEMBER 16, 2011: Yesterday, the State Senate passed its version of Pension Reform (S2010), closely resembling Governor Patrick's reform legislation, which he filed with the Legislature this past spring.

The bill had been released by the Joint Public Service Committee on Monday of this week, which allowed two days for amendments to be filed. Because the bill did not include our earlier amendment for a $16,000 COLA base, but rather a Public Service Committee proposal of $13,000, up from the Governor's original $12,000, our Association had to take immediate action with a Senate amendment.

As a compromise, our Senate amendment was for a $14,000 base effective July 2012, with an escalator clause of $1,000 for each of the following two years to reach a $16,000 base by Year 2014. Senators John Keenan (D-Quincy) and Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington) co-filed the amendment containing this language, but it was rejected by a floor voice vote (non-recorded individual vote).

"The bill (S2010), which we opposed right from the start, because it treats new-hires [new employees] starting next January as second-class employees when their greatly reduced pension formula is compared to our current formula," said Association President Ralph White.
"The legislation will save a mythical $5 billion according to the bond rating agencies, the Governor and the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation's Michael J. Widmer, whose name is anathema to thousands of public sector employees and retirees," White continued.

"State and local governments have long failed to deliver their annual share of long-term pension costs when compared to employees' contributions, and new employees, who have no voice at this juncture, are being sacrificed to satisfy the black suits of Standard and Poors, Moody's and Fitch (bond raters), who have hinted that the latest extension of the State's pension funding schedule to Year 2040 could impact the Commonwealth's bond rating."

House Is Next

The bill is now in the hands of the House Ways and Means Committee where White, Shawn Duhamel, Bill Rehrey and other Association leaders will work toward increasing the COLA base for State and Teacher retirees, prior to the bill being debated by the House. We will also continue our daily meetings with our coalition of union leaders with whom we bonded in attempting to prevent new employees from losing the current retirement formula, which is a contractual right for current employees and retirees.

Meetings are held at the Mass Teachers Association's headquarters, which is 2 minutes from our office and adjacent to the State House. The MTA, Firefighters, Mass Police Association, AFSCME, NAGE, SEIU. BTU, MOSES, State Police and various other unions have continued to make the COLA a top priority. Our next Coalition meeting is scheduled for this coming Monday.