The House-Senate conferees have released their version of the state budget and it includes the following:
–A COLA of 1% for all persons who retired on or before July 1, 2016. This is a genuine COLA, NOT a one-time bonus.
–Happily, this budget includes NO language about eliminating retiree medical coverage for new hires or about accounting for future benefits all in the first year.
–In terms of the retiree health plan contribution from the state, it’s 6.05% for first year, then 6.27% in 2018.
–The retirement contribution for 2017 is 10.78% (less than House proposed) and 11.87% for 2018 (which is more than House proposed).
Let me pause here to put things into perspective. Though this isn’t the official end of the budget process, it seems likely that the final budget will include the provisions described above. All of us would have liked to get more than a 1% COLA; however, in the current political climate getting even a 1% COLA is a great achievement! Our lobbyists, Pam Deardorff and Lacy Presnell, have worked like galley slaves to educate legislators about the need for a COLA. Hundreds of our members bestirred themselves to send messages and even visit legislators to persuade them to see reason. We might have gotten a mere bonus—or nothing at all! But—through the efforts of our lobbyists, our members and allied organizations—we got something besides a one-time bonus.
No, a one-percent COLA won’t put any of us on easy street, but it’s something, and until we have a new legislature with new members and new attitudes, this is as good an outcome as we can possibly expect.
I hope you will thank Pam, Lacy and our officers for their work. And if you were one of the many who pitched in to help, thank yourself!