Friday, June 12, 2015

COLA for retired state employees, teachers up OK’d

Some 130,000 retired state employees and teachers could get a bump in their pension checks in July after all.

The only stumbling block could be a veto by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In a last minute move, the Legislature reversed course and agreed to the 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment this year instead of next.

The reason: state Rep. Jack Montoucet.

The Crowley Democrat refused to bring up legislation he sponsored that would generate $100 million to help fill the state budget hole, holding out for reconsideration of the COLA vote.

“Jack said ‘I’m not leaving you without a COLA for those retirees,” state Rep. Sam Jones, sponsor of House Bill 42 which would provide an average $30 increase in retiree pension checks.

With budget pressure, House and Senate leaders agreed to let their members rescind an earlier vote on HB42 which would have delayed the COLA until 2016.

Montoucet proceeded with his revenue-raising measure.

Earlier in the afternoon, Jones had begrudgingly accepted the Senate rewrite of legislation in the face of Senate opposition and a potential Jindal veto. And the House agreed to go along.

The Senate version of the bill also added provisions aimed at shorting up the finances of the state’s four pension systems - state employees, teachers, school employees and State Police.

“It’s not the one I want. It is what it is,” the Franklin Democrat said, in regard to the COLA delay. He said other Senate changes are good for the pension systems.

“It’s the best we could do,” Jones said.

Money to cover the average $30 a month COLA is special accounts set up for the purpose in all four retirement systems.

Jones said the retirees are struggling with escalating costs of state health insurance.

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