Louisiana Rep. Sam Jones called on Gov.
Bobby Jindal Tuesday to reconsider his threat to veto a cost-of-living raise
this year for 130,000 retired state employees and teachers.
Jones said it is particularly important for
retirees to get a 1.5 percent bump in their pension checks now because it could
be the last chance for a while.
“If we don’t give one this year almost
certainly we will not give one next year,” Jones said. “We are looking at the
possibility of maybe three years.”
The money to provide the average $30
monthly increase is in special accounts set up for the
cost-of-living-adjustments, or COLAs, at the four statewide retirement systems:
State Employee, Teachers, School Employees and State Police. But a consumer
price index benchmark must be met too, Jones said.
“We will meet it this year and probably not
next year. Do we likely skip three years or try to do something more immediate
to address the problems of 130,000 retirees?” Jones asked.
The Franklin Democrat told his House
colleagues he wanted to talk to Jindal about the situation.
Earlier in the session, the Louisiana
House approved 80-20 Jones’ House Bill 42 ,which would grant the COLA
effective July 1. The House forced its
Retirement Committee to release the bill for action.
Jones said retirees are facing escalating
state health insurance costs and have had one 1.5 percent COLA in the last
The measure ran into problems in the Senate
where its Finance Committee moved the COLA date to July 1, 2016. Absent the
change, administration officials said the governor would veto the measure.
Jones postponed until Wednesday a House
vote on whether to send the Senate version to a conference committee to try to
restore the COLA this year.
Jones told the House the administration
worried that granting the COLA now would hurt Louisiana’s bond rating as it
broke faith with a law designed to improve pension system finances.
“I don’t necessarily agree with that,”
The retirees got a COLA last year and were
not supposed to receive one this year under a new law.
Under the 2014 law, more of the retirement
systems’ excess investment earnings will go toward reduction of long-term debts
before dollars are put into the special COLA accounts.
The changes limited both the frequency and
amount of future retiree benefit hikes until systems hit certain unfunded
accrued liability levels.
“I think it’s a shame we are taking that
kind of position with our retirees,” said state Rep. Ed Price, D-Gonzales.