Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Benefits bump for Louisiana state retirees gets closer to Gov. John Bel Edwards' desk

Mark Ballard
The Advocate
Retired state workers are a step away from receiving cost-of-living increases after the Louisiana House approved Monday a benefits bump bill and two other linked measures that tweak the state retirement systems.
Two of the bills have minor amendments whose wording needs to be approved by the state Senate, but that consent is expected. The measures then would go to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is expected to sign them into law.
The cost-of-living adjustments, called COLAs, would increase the monthly benefits checks of 124,741 pensioners over the age of 60, who have been retired for at least a year. Most live in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.
Based on calculation of how well funded each of the state systems are, retired state workers and retired public school teachers would receive a 1.5 percent increase; retired school workers would get 2 percent; and retired State Police troopers and staff would receive at least 2 percent.
The average monthly increase would be about $30 but could vary based on the circumstances of individual retirees.
State Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport, chairman of the Senate Retirement committee, had linked the benefits increase to passage of two other measures that alter the way the state retirement systems operate.
In quick succession, the House approved Senate Bill 2, which awards retirees COLAs; Senate Bill 5, which would require the retirement systems to timely pay administrative costs rather than roll those charges into the 30-year debt; and Senate Bill 18, which would reduce the amortization period — paying off debt on a fixed schedule — from 30 years to 20 years.
In the dozen votes held in committees and before the full House and full Senate, only one lawmaker cast a no vote. That was Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, in committee and he said he did so to make a point about the size of the state systems’ debt, which is about $20 billion. The money for the COLAs comes from an account where excess investment earnings were deposited and the $385 million ultimate cost would not come from the state budget, which is $600 million in the red.
House Retirement Committee Chairman Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, said the three measures were the product of much negotiation and would provide needed improvements in the retirement systems as well as a needed boost for retirees who have seen their spending abilities decrease with rising costs of health care and groceries.
Democratic Rep. Sam Jones, of Franklin, sponsored another COLA measure — House Bill 32 — but it was not linked to any other legislation. His straight-up increase-the-benefit bill passed the House without a single objection and also is awaiting action in the Senate.

As representative last year, Edwards had voted on the COLA that was vetoed by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal. As governor, Edwards asked Jones, his House floor leader, to sponsor legislation that would increase monthly benefits payments to retirees.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I retired in 2013 after losing my annual increase for the first 5 years Jindal was in office. I am now 53 years old. I don't understand why there is an age limitation on this COLA. Do I have to wait an additional 7 years - 15 years total - for a raise that was stolen from me by the prior administration??