Monday, May 2, 2016

House committee approves Senate COLA bills

Jim Beam
American Press

Three Senate bills tied together with a cost-of-living increase for members of four state retirement systems were approved Thursday by the House Retirement Committee.

Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, is sponsor of Senate Bills 2, 5 and 18. All three were approved unanimously by the full Senate and move to the full House.

Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, has House Bill 32, which is similar to Peacock’s. However, his isn’t linked to the other two measures.
The House approved Jones’ bill unanimously, and it is awaiting action in the Senate Retirement Committee.

The four systems in both bills are the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System, or LASERS; the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana; the Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System; and the State Police Retirement System.

The increase would only be paid on the first $60,000 of a retiree or beneficiary’s benefit. The maximum amount would be 1.5 percent of the benefit for LASERS and the TRSL and 2 percent for LSERS and the SPRS.

The two COLA bills override current law for one year and provide a larger increase than what recipients would have otherwise received on July 1. Under current law, retirees on July 1 would have received only a 0.124 percent COLA.

The increase is linked to passage of S.B. 5, which would require the retirement systems to timely pay administrative costs rather than rolling them over. S.B. 18 would reduce the time for paying off retirement debt from 30 to 20 years.

Each state system board of directors would grant the COLA provided for under S.B. 2 on July 1 of this year. Funds would come from the systems’ experience accounts.

If the balances in the experience accounts on June 30 are less than the cost of the COLAs, the percentage increase would be reduced accordingly. LSERS is the only one affected. It has $23 million in its experience account, and its increase will cost $25.1 million.

Eligible under current law for the COLA are any regular retiree who has received a benefit for at least one year and who has attained at least age 60; any beneficiary of a regular retiree, beneficiary or both combined who has received a benefit for at least one year and if the deceased member would have attained age 60; and any disability retiree or any beneficiary who receives benefits based on the death of a disability retiree if benefits have been received by the retiree, beneficiary or both combined for at least a year.

LASERS has 33,575 regular retirees, 5,834 survivors and beneficiaries, and 2,457 disabled retirees. Total cost of its COLA would be $123.1 million. The TRSL has 58,751 retirees, 6,771 survivors and beneficiaries, and 4,121 disabled retirees. Total coast of its increase would be $224.7 million.

LSERS has 10,146 retirees, 1,662 survivors and beneficiaries, and 331 disabled retirees. Total cost of its increase would be $25.1 million. The SPRS has 696 regular retirees, 335 survivors and beneficiaries, and 62 disabled retirees. The cost of its increase would be $6.8 million.

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