Governor Inslee Signs Plan 1 COLA Bill
On the afternoon of Tuesday, May 9, Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5350, providing a one-time 3% cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees not to exceed $110 per month. The bill also directs the Select Committee on Pension Policy (SCPP) to study and recommend an ongoing COLA proposal to the State Legislature. PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees will see their monthly pension amounts increase by 3% or $110 (whichever is less) at the end of July 2023.
The signature of SB 5350 culminates a year of effort from RPEC members who advocated tirelessly for its passage. Before the bill reached the Legislature, last year RPEC members played a key role in crafting language in the bill while it was being developed by the SCPP. Next, members secured funding in Governor Jay Inslee’s budget request to the Legislature. Throughout the legislative session, thousands of members wrote emails and letters, testified, and signed in to support the bill at four legislative hearings, eventually securing its passage, full funding, and signature.
However, other work started much earlier than last year. For over a decade, RPEC chapters have invited state legislators to their meetings to discuss the importance of restoring a COLA for PERS 1 and TRS 1. Meanwhile, the RPEC Political Action Committee has vetted thousands of candidates for State Legislature to endorse and make campaign contributions to leaders who support restoring a COLA for PERS 1 and TRS 1.
Since the State Legislature discontinued the annual Uniform COLA in 2011, PERS 1 and TRS 1 are the only pension plans managed by the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems that don’t receive annual automatic COLAs. SB 5350 joins the other one-time COLA bills that RPEC played a major role in passing in 2018, 2020, and 2022. For the first time in over a decade, all PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees will receive COLAs in back-to-back years.
While we have never been closer to restoring an ongoing COLA, we still have much work to do. RPEC will be heavily involved in working with the SCPP to develop an ongoing COLA proposal and will need PERS 1 and TRS 1 members to come forward to share their stories. Our success will continue to depend on our ability to mobilize members to support our priorities and share their personal experiences with decision-makers. Please stay tuned for opportunities to support these efforts as we work with the SCPP this summer and fall.