Weekly Update: August 4, 2023
In addition to the FY24 State Budget being passed and sent to Governor Healey, this week we also went to press with the September 2023 edition of The Voice. The newsletter will be mailed to all Mass Retirees members starting the week of August 14th.
Before offering a sneak preview of the upcoming newsletter, let me first provide a quick update on the State Budget. On Monday, the House and Senate approved the FY24 budget and sent it to Governor Maura Healey. The governor has 10-days to review the budget before approving it.
As expected, the budget contains a 3% COLA on a $13,000 base for eligible members of the State and Teachers’ Retirement Systems. It will be paid starting in the August pension check, but retroactive to July 1, 2023. To be eligible for the FY24 COLA, retirees will need to have been retired prior to July 1, 2022. This eligibility requirement has been part of the COLA law for many decades and applies to local retirees as well.
Along with the COLA, the budget also fully funds the Commonwealth’s pension appropriation at more than $4.1 billion for FY24 and spells out the funding schedule through FY26. The budget also fully funds the state’s Group Insurance Commission at nearly $3 billion, while maintaining all existing contribution rates.
Internally, the big news for this week is the completion of the September edition of our newsletter. Since we do all the writing and editing in-house, the production of our bi-monthly publication is a major undertaking. Graphic design and layout services are provided by our friends at Chameleon Design Group, who have been our design partners for nearly 20 years! The final product is then printed and mailed by Standard Modern, which is a local union print shop.
Before I preview the newsletter content, let me thank Association General Counsel Bill Rehrey for the work he puts into serving as the editor of The Voice. Bill coordinates all content creation and works directly with the team at Chameleon DG in developing the layout. He then works with our Operations Manager Patricia Igo in coordinating edits and the production & mailing schedule to get each edition into your hands.
When it comes to the content within each newsletter, we put a lot of time and effort into not only reporting breaking news regarding your retirement, but also providing members with unique information that you cannot access anywhere else. We also try to cover a variety of different topics that are of interest to different subsets of Association members.
We lead off the September Voice by focusing on three key issues on page 1. This starts with a report on the rebound of pension fund investments through the first half of 2023, as well as the latest news regarding the ongoing state-wide efforts to improve COLA benefits. As we explained in last week’s update, there is a direct relation between the financial health of our pension systems and the ability to increase retiree benefits. If the systems are doing well, it makes it easier to advocate for benefit improvements.
Below the fold on page 1 is a report on the latest news surrounding the generations long fight regarding the Social Security WEP and GPO laws. As you know, Congressman Richie Neal has refiled his proposal to reform the WEP. We anticipate that the Republican House majority will likely file their own version of WEP reform once Congress returns from the August recess. At the same time, there are several bills pending that would fully repeal both WEP & GPO. Our report outlines all these various bills, while also forecasting the likelihood of Congressional action during the current session. Spoiler alert – action on any bill relative to Social Security is unlikely prior to 2025.
As we were completing the September newsletter, it was brought to our attention that an important federal budget watchdog nonprofit had issued a statement against full repeal of WEP and GPO. We have highlighted this opposition from the Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget in separate article on page 2. It is important for members to fully understand what we are up against when it comes to WEP and GPO, as well as why we continue to focus on reform and not full repeal.
Beyond the lead articles, there is a wealth of information on a series of import issues impacting public retirees. They include:
- Fall 2023 Area Meetings and Tele-Town Hall Meeting Calendar
- Legislative Update: Contains a full update on the progress of our legislative proposals and recent Association testimony before the Joint Committee on Public Service
- COLA Base Report: Complete list of the COLA base amount, as well as the adoption of last fiscal year’s additional 2% COLA
- Improved GIC Hearing Aid Benefit
- GIC Open Enrollment Report: There was significant activity during this year’s Annual Open Enrollment
- Update on the GIC’s online portal, MyGICLink
- Prescription drug pricing reforms under Medicare
- Ibis Health Update
- To Which Retirement System Do I Belong: As mentioned in a previous email update, the recent post explaining the different retirement systems caught the attention of many members. We have decided to publish it within the newsletter to reach all members.
- Report on the Mass. Association of Contributory Retirement System’s Annual Spring Conference, at which our Association’s legislative team participated.
- Update from Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) Board Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer Michael G. Trotsky.
- A fitting farewell to UniCare’s Sue Tiffany, who recently retired after nearly 46 years with the company.
As you can see, we have once again covered quite a few topics within the upcoming newsletter. If there is a topic you would like to see us report on, either as part of my weekly update or within the newsletter, please let us know. Our only stipulation is that it must be directly relevant to public retirees.
I hope you are enjoying this hot summer.
With great appreciation,
Chief Executive Officer
Mass Retirees Association