COLA Effort Updates

 

Update: 10/18/23:

Senator Katie Muth has not only introduced two bills (SB 951 and 952) that would provide pre Act 9 retirees a COLA in their pensions, but she has also introduced a comprehensive COLA that was drafted by PASR, SB 864. SB 864 would provide a one time COLA to pre Act 9 retirees of between 15 and 24.5%, but it would also provide an automatic COLA that is determined by the inflation rate to all PSERS annuitants every three years! This bill does provide for limits on the automatic COLA, such as limiting it to a 7% maximum, to help control the cost to the state government who would fund the entire COLA so that school districts do not need to pay more and further squeeze their budgets. There are other limits as well, but this would be the first ever automatic COLA in PA history! PASR does not want to get everyone’s hopes up as the odds of the General Assembly adopting this bill are very small, but we thought it would be worth sharing, and, who know….crazier things have happened!

Update 10/18/23:

The Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR) is proud to announce its unwavering support for House Bill 1415 and House Bill 1416, which aim to provide a much-needed cost of living increase for retired school employees. As the leading advocate for retired educators in the state, PASR believes that these bills are crucial in ensuring the financial security and well-being of retired school employees who have dedicated their lives to shaping the future of Pennsylvania’s youth.

House Bill 1415, sponsored by Representative Dan Deasy, and House Bill 1416, sponsored by Representative Steven Malagari, propose a cost-of-living increase for retired school employees. Both representatives, alongside Senators Katie Muth, Vince Hughes and John Kane, advocated for this critical legislation yesterday at a rally in the Capitol hosted by the CLEAR coalition.

“PASR firmly believes that our retired school employees deserve a dignified retirement after dedicating their careers to educating our children,” said Kristen Holjes, Executive Director of PASR. “These bills are a crucial step towards ensuring that our retired educators can maintain a decent standard of living and continue to contribute to their communities.”

The proposed cost of living increase would provide retired school employees with the financial support they need to cover essential expenses such as housing, healthcare, and daily living costs. It would also recognize the invaluable contributions made by these individuals throughout their careers, fostering a sense of appreciation and respect for their service.

PASR urges all members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support a COLA for retired school employees. By doing so, they would demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of retired school employees and their recognition of the vital role they have played in shaping the lives of countless students.

“We call upon our legislators to prioritize the needs of our retired educators and their surviving spouses,” added Holjes. “Passing these bills would not only provide financial relief but also send a powerful message of gratitude to those who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of our education system.”

PASR encourages supporters to reach out to their local representatives and voice their support for House Bill 1415 and House Bill 1416. Together, we can ensure that retired school employees receive the support they deserve and continue to be valued members of our communities.

Nearly 70K Pa. school, government retirees have had no COLA increase in 21 years

Update 7/25/23:

Thanks to the many efforts of thousands of our members to communicate the need for a COLA with their elected representatives HB 1415 and HB 1416 have progressed further than any other COLA legislation in the past 20+ years! We will need people to maintain these efforts if we are to succeed in securing a COLA, so  keep communicating with your senators and representatives.

Due to some recent developments, the COLA bills have been stuck at the House Rules Committee, waiting to be scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives. The PA budget has passed both chambers but has yet to be sent to the Governor due to some disagreements, mainly revolving around a school voucher plan. Additionally, a Democrat representative just resigned, leaving the PA House without a majority party until after a special election scheduled for September 19th. It is unlikely that the House will meet to vote on anything until the end of September.

This impasse presents us with two potential opportunities: 1. fiscal matters stay present in the minds of legislators, so this is a good time to communicate with them to keep momentum behind this COLA push. 2. this may be unlikely, but, if negotiations resume, the desire for the voucher program may enable the injection of a COLA as a means of garnering votes for the voucher program. In any case, the most likely scenario is the COLA effort continuing into the fall and we must keep pressure on legislators to pass a COLA as they hammer out the details of implementing the budget in whatever form the budget passes. In short, we are optimistic that a COLA can be achieved this year, but it will take support from our members!

The legislative impasse has state legislators in their home districts, so please consider visiting them at their district offices this summer! Find your legislator and their offices here: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/

One of the delays in pushing the COLA bills ahead had been the lack of a scoring from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), which is required for any COLA bill to be voted upon and enacted. The IFO provides estimates as to what a COLA will cost and how it impacts the pension system. Well, we finally received the IFO scoring for both bills and we think the scoring is favorable for moving these bills ahead.

Here is a quick overview of the IFO notes:
The average age of Pre Act 9 annuitants is 83.3 years old.
The cost of each COLA bill would be spread out over 10 years.

HB 1416 is the bill favored by PASR in that it will provide between 15% and 24.5% for PSERS and SERS annuitants that retired prior to July 1, 2001 (before Act 9 was enacted). I.e. those that retired in 2001 would get a 15% increase and those that retired in 1982 or before would get a 24.5% increase, and those who retired in between would get an increase between 15.5% and 24% depending upon their retirement year.
–HB 1416 would provide an average increase of $3,040 per year to each annuitant.
–Yearly cost of this bill is $125 million per year for PSERS and $177.6 million for both PSERS and SERS together.
–This increases the unfunded liability of the PSERS system to increase by .44% (less than half of one percent!)
–This would cause the contribution rate of districts and the state to the PSERS system to increase .81%, though PASR has advocated for the state to make the entire payment so as not to further burden school districts, and this could be offered as an amendment when the bills move ahead. Moreover, the state has $11 billion surplus even after the proposed budget is taken into account and the state could make a one time payment to the pension systems to cover increased cost to the pension systems and still have over $9.2 billion in surplus for future needs.

HB 1415 is the other proposal and it would provide between 10% and 20% increase for PSERS and SERS annuitants that retired prior to July 1, 2001 (before Act 9 was enacted). I.e. those that retired in 2001 would get a 10% increase and those that retired in 1982 or before would get a 20% increase, and those who retired in between would get an increase between 10.5% and 19.5% depending upon their retirement year.
–HB 1415 would provide an average increase of $2,175 per year to each annuitant.
–Yearly cost of this bill is $89 million per year for PSERS and $125.5 million for both PSERS and SERS together
–This increases the unfunded liability of the PSERS system to increase by .31% (less than one third of one percent!)
–This would cause the contribution rate of districts and the state to the PSERS system to increase .58%, though, again, PASR has advocated for the state to make the entire payment so as not to further burden school districts, and this could be offered as an amendment when the bills move ahead. Moreover, the state has $11 billion surplus even after the proposed budget is taken into account and the state could make a one time payment to the pension systems to cover increased cost to the pension systems and still have over $9.7 billion in surplus for future needs.

Long story short, the state can afford to help this segment of the senior population without placing any further burden on school districts and property taxes. Legislators are pushing to help students, to attract future educators, and to provide millions in corporate subsidies (PA gives more corporate subsidies than any other state in the country!), so please don’t let them neglect those who were dedicated public servants and that continue to selflessly serve the Commonwealth. It may be especially helpful to remind them that PSERS annuitants include bus drivers, cafeteria workers and others without professional credentials that are struggling to make ends meet and that ensuring something resembling a more secure retirement could help attract and keep people that work in education from custodians to teachers and administrators who are currently leaving the schools in record numbers.

If you were one of the thousands that have contacted your legislators, THANK YOU!

If you haven’t already contacted your legislators, please consider doing so, as the fate of this COLA legislation is hanging in the balance!

Update 6/28/23:

A small victory has been obtained in seeking a long overdue Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for PSERS annuitants! The House State Government Committee passed two pieces of COLA legislation today (HB 1415 and HB 1416)!! These bills were introduced by Representatives Deasy and Malagari, who deserve our gratitude. Rep. Deasy also appeared during the Committee hearing to advocate for passage of these bills.

The next step is for these bills is to be scheduled for a vote by the full PA House of Representatives. We will be asking you to contact your state representative once these bills have been scheduled for a full House vote, so please keep your eyes peeled for that request in the near future.

There is still along way to go to get either of these bills passed into law, as this process will need to be repeated in the PA Senate and signed by the Governor if they make it out of the House, but after more than twenty years with no COLA, we need to stop and celebrate these small victories!!

These bills provide pre Act 9 annuitants a smaller COLA than they deserve, and, as such, are not what PASR had hoped to achieve, but something is better than nothing and PASR continues to advocate for a larger COLA for Pre Act 9 annuitants and an automatic COLA for every PSERS annuitant. There is a chance that such a proposal could come forward in the Senate, and, if not, PASR will keep pushing until this goal is achieved. With that said HB 1416 could provide as much as a 25% increase some PSERS annuitants!

The vote today was along party lines, with 12 Democrats voting in favor of the bills and 9 Republicans voting against the bills. These legislators are listed below. If your representative voted in favor of the bill, please, please, please send them a note, call them, etc. to offer your gratitude for their work on our behalf!! PASR owes you a debt of gratitude as well for communicating with your state elected officials to urge them to adopt a COLA, so, THANK YOU, and please keep it up as these bills will not become law without your continued support and advocacy efforts!!

Those voting in favor of these two bills:

Conklin, ScottMadden, Maureen E.Howard, Kristine C.Kenyatta, MalcolmMadden, Maureen E.Sanchez, Benjamin V.Webster, JoeBrennan, TimGuenst, NancyProbst, TarahShusterman, Melissa L.Siegel, JoshuaYoung, Regina G.

Those voting against these bills:

Roae, Brad; Davanzo, Eric; Barton, Jamie; Keefer, Dawn W.; Miller, Brett R.; Schmitt, Louis C., Jr.; Staats, Craig T.; Banta, Jacob D.; Fink, Wendy

Thank you if you are a member of PASR, and, if you are not a member of PASR, please consider joining and helping us in this effort. More information can be found at www.pasr.org

Update: 6/14/23:

Thanks to all of the efforts that have been made by you, PA state representatives Deasy and Malagari have introduced two bills into the PA House of Representatives that propose a COLA for PSERS (retired educators) and SERS (retired state workers) annuitants that retired prior to 2002. 

Those who retired prior to 2002 did not benefit from Act 9 which, essentially, gave a 25% increase in pension payments to those that retired in 2002 or after. Those who retired prior to 2002 are, therefore, in dire need of a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

House Bill 1415 asks for a 10% increase for those that retired in 2001 and that increases to by approximately half a percent per year to a maximum of 20% for those that retired in 1982 or before 1982. So those who retired in 2000 would receive a 10.5% increase, those in 1999 would receive 11%, etc.

House Bill 1416 operates in the same manner, but begins with 15% and caps out at 24.5%.

While PASR is still hopeful that we might get the General Assembly to consider these increases along with an automatic COLA for everyone every three years, PASR also knows that these are the bills that have been introduced for now and we do not want to forego something and up with nothing for our members. As such, we humbly request that you use the form (above) we have created to email your state representative and ask them to support HB 1416 if they can, and if they can’t support HB 1416, then to at least support HB 1415.

Update: 6/12/23:

COLA MOVEMENT!!

PA State Representatives Malagari and Deasy are drafting legislation for a PSERS COLA that are set to be introduced to Committee in the next few days!!

Once we have the bill numbers we will provide details of the proposals and the bill numbers and ask that you contact your representatives to demand that they support the COLA effort. In the meantime, please consider sending a note of gratitude to both of these representatives:

RepDeasy@pahouse.net and repmalagari@pahouse.net

Senators Muth and Kane are also working to draft COLA legislation to be introduced in the Senate, so please consider sending them a note of gratitude as well: senatormuth@pasenate.com and kane@pasenate.com

These four legislators and Representative Bizarro have been spearheading the COLA effort and PASR wants them to know that PASR and its members greatly appreciate their support and leadership!!

 

If you would like to help in this effort more directly, please contact a local PASR chapter (County chapter information and contact information can be found at www.pasr.org under the “find a chapter” link) or call our office at 717-697-7077. 

If you are a PASR member, please contact your chapter’s LPEC chair or president. If you are not a member of PASR, please consider joining–information about PASR and how to join can be found at www.pasr.org.

Update 3/21/23:

Below is PASR’s written testimony to the Democratic Joint Policy Committee. Two of our members submitted written testimony and one testified in person to the Committee. Senators Muth and Kane and Representatives Deasy and Malagari were the driving forces in getting this hearing organized.

Public school workers say ‘dignified’ retirement now out of reach

PA Democrats push support for COLA increase for retirees

Democratic lawmakers push for cost of living adjustment

WATCH the Joint Policy Hearing here

 

How to locate and contact your State elected officials:

As a member of PASR, we humbly request that you enthusiastically join our effort to make your voices heard! Please reach out individually and coordinate with your chapter LPEC Chair and/or Chapter President to enhance your own efforts.

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/

If you do not know who currently represents you, your address will identify that person.

Once you locate your state rep – here are the various ways to contact them:

  1. Phone call to the legislator’s local office.
  2. Phone call to the legislator’s Harrisburg office.
  3. Personal visit to legislator’s local office.
  4. Email or write a letter.
  5. Communicate with them on their social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.
  6. Write editorials for your local news sources.

 

For “Talking Points” to use in your communications, please reach out to our office at 717-697-7077 or pasr@pasr.org. We have a list of themes for you to use. Pick one that is comfortable for you, or you can use a basic suggested message.

Continued on page 6

When Communicating with Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly

  1. Please do not be overly “aggressive” or demanding in asking for support for a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment). Being respectful is a better methodology.
  2. Please mention that we (PASR) recognize the challenges that lawmakers/elected officials have each year when it comes time to pass the state budget. We understand that this is not a simple or easy request, and it will cost money.
  3. Please highlight your personal situation and need for a COLA in light of the 75% inflation since 2000 that has gobbled up your purchasing power.
  4. Others have seen increases since 2002, but not public school retirees who so richly deserve to be able to live a dignified retirement.

 

The positive economic impact on Pennsylvania of pension payments made to retired state workers and more evidence that a COLA for PSERS annuitants would benefit everyone if only we could get the General Assembly to listen! Please visit https://www.nirsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/pensionomics2021_pa.pdf for more information.

As part of PASR’s continuing effort to get our members a COLA and provide current and relevant information, this page is designated to do just that.  Below you will find links to important recent news articles that may affect the process of receiving a COLA. 

PASR Links

Links to PASR information regarding legislative updates

PASR L/PEC Brochure

Donate to PASR L/PEC Efforts

PSERS Links

PA State Links

Pension Research Links

Interesting COLA/Pension Stories

After two decades and record inflation, school retirees need a COLA

PA Legislators set to receive COLA while denying state pension annuitants a COLA

Legislators will have to weigh giving retired state employees a COLA as they are set to receive their own COLA, which will pad their pensions!

With a $7,400 raise, Pa. lawmakers’ earnings all top six figures

Twenty years and counting for PA retirees without a COLA, now struggling with inflation

Paul Muschick: Pennsylvania lawmakers cash in on inflation while ignoring plight of retirees

Lawmakers propose raising teachers’ minimum salaries to $60K to stem ‘mass exodus’

Pension costs for Pa. taxpayers to decrease next year for the first time in over a decade

Pa. school pension trims taxpayer cost, details $1.7 billion paid to Wall Street managers

Five takeaways from Gov. Josh Shapiro’s inaugural speech

Pa. bills would boost benefits for retired teachers, state employees | Thursday Morning Coffee

Pa. Gov. Shapiro proposes $44.4B spending plan in 1st budget address

Budget negotiations will determine fate of shrinking rebate program for older Pennsylvanians

Senate, House Dems discuss need for COLA for PSERS and SERS retirees

Pennsylvania public school workers say a ‘dignified’ retirement is now out of reach

Many Pennsylvania state retirees say they can’t afford inflation on their stagnant pensions

State Government Committee Passes COLA Bills Saddling Taxpayers Despite Republican Opposition

Pennsylvania lawmakers advance COLA bills for retirees

Lighter Reads