PERS 1/TRS 1 COLA Clears Legislature
Thanks to the tireless advocacy of retirees across the state, on April 19, 2023, the Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5350, providing PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees with a one-time 3% cost-of-living-adjustment not to exceed $110 per month.
Additionally, the bill directs the Select Committee on Pension Policy to study and recommend an annual PERS 1/TRS 1 COLA proposal to the full legislature. RPEC members are directly represented on the Select Committee on Pension Policy and will be heavily involved in the crafting of the ongoing COLA proposal.
The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Steve Conway (D, Tacoma), secured passage in its original form, without amendments. During the legislative process, the House twice passed amendments to change the way the bill was funded. The House’s amendments would have increased the unfunded liabilities in the pension plans.
RPEC advocated for passage of the original version of the bill, a position also supported by the Senate. On April 19, after concluding operating budget negotiations, the House agreed to recede from their amendments and unanimously passed the Senate’s version of the bill, keeping the pension funds on track to reach full funding.
SB 5350 will become law when it is signed by Governor Jay Inslee, who signaled support for the bill by funding it in his December 2022 budget proposal. Funding is expected to be found in the legislature’s final operating budget, which should be publicly available by the end of April 21.
PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees will see their pensions increase in July 2023. Since the legislature eliminated the Uniform COLA in 2011, PERS 1 and TRS 1 are the only pension plans overseen by the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems that do not receive automatic annual COLAs. SB 5350 joins the one-time COLA bills that RPEC passed in 2018, 2020, and 2022 providing relief to retirees. Our work will continue until an annual PERS 1/TRS 1 COLA is restored.