Tuesday, April 1, 2014

State pension boost wins support

Marsha Shuler
The Advocate

Legislation advanced Monday that would provide more than 100,000 retired state employees, teachers, school employees and State Police with a 1.5 percent increase in their pension checks.

The Senate Finance Committee quickly signed off on legislation that would grant 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustments — the first in six years for many retirees.

The 1.5 percent would amount to an average $29 a month increase in state employee and teacher pension checks.

Earlier in the day, legislative sponsors sidelined proposals aimed at giving retired state employees and teachers the possibility of a boost in their pension checks above the 1.5 percent.

Both legislators had their eyes set on using money left over in system “experience accounts” after the 1.5 percent proposed cost of living adjustment is implemented.

Excess investment earnings flow into the special accounts set up to fund cost-of-living adjustments .
Other legislation has been filed that would grab the remaining funds and use them to pay toward each system’s long-term liabilities, which are substantial.

State Sens. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, asked the Senate Retirement Committee to defer action on their bills.

Walsworth said he pulled Senate Bill 27 to allow the retirement committee to decide whether sufficient funds would be available to grant the supplemental benefit for retired state employees.

“We know the situation our retirees are in. They have had a tough time,” Walsworth said. But he said he would leave its fate up to the “wisdom of the committee."

The State Employee “experience account” has $196 million in it. The 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise would cost $106 million.

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