Monday, April 15, 2024

Governor Inslee Signs Plan 1 COLA Bill

Governor Inslee Signs Plan 1 COLA Bill

It’s official. For the third year in a row, PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees will receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). On Tuesday, March 26, Governor Jay Inslee signed Substitute House Bill 1985, providing Plan 1 retirees with a one-time 3% COLA not to exceed $110 per month. The COLA will be reflected in pension checks received at the end of July 2024.

Governor Jay Inslee shakes hands with RPEC Executive Board Member Claude Burfect. Claude and Zaida Zapata Quimby (center) are both PERS 1 retirees from Seattle. Zaida, age 85, worked for King County Metro for 33 years. Due to no COLAs, she must continue to work to keep her home.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Joe Timmons, a freshman Democrat representing part of Bellingham and rural Whatcom County. In his short time in the Legislature, Timmons has quickly earned a reputation as an effective advocate for retirees.  In 2023, he introduced and passed House Bill 1431, which exempts meals prepared for tenants at senior living communities from sales tax.

RPEC leaders with bill sponsor Representative Joe Timmons. Left to Right: Executive Board Member Claude Burfect, Executive Director Laurie Weidner, Rep. Joe Timmons, Zaida Zapata Quimby, Secretary & Legislative Committee Chair Nancy Heley, and Government Affairs Coordinator Emmett Mills.

PERS 1 and TRS 1 are the only pension systems managed by the Department of Retirement Systems to not receive annual automatic COLAs. While the five one-time COLA bills that RPEC helped pass since 2018 have provided much needed relief to retirees on fixed incomes, they have fallen short of restoring the retirement security that was lost when the Legislature took away the Plan 1 Uniform COLA in 2011 to address a budget crisis. Without an ongoing COLA, retirees are unable to make long-term financial decisions.

Representative Mari Leavitt played an important role in passing SHB 1985. Rep. Leavitt, who was the sponsor of the first 3% COLA bill RPEC helped pass in 2020, poses with RPEC and Washington Education Association – Retired leaders. Left to right: Laurie Weidner (RPEC), Simone Boe (WEA), Phyllis Farrell (WEA-R), Emmett Mills (RPEC), Zaida Zapata Quimby (RPEC), Rep. Mari Leavitt, Lee Ann Prielipp (WEA-R), Nancy Heley (RPEC), and Mary Lindsey (WEA-R).

We now look ahead to the 2025 Legislative Session. Thanks to a bill that RPEC helped pass last year, the Select Committee on Pension Policy will spend the rest of this year developing an ongoing Plan 1 COLA proposal for the Legislature to consider. RPEC will be actively involved in the development of the proposal. This summer and fall, retirees across the state must work harder than ever to remind their Legislators about the importance of restoring an ongoing COLA in 2025.

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