Thursday, February 29, 2024

Senate and House Budget Proposals

Two of our key priorities have been included in the Senate budget proposal.

Funding is earmarked to implement SB 5350, which provides a one-time 3% COLA to PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees capped at $110 per month. It also includes language to require the Select Committee on Pension Policy to study and recommend a proposal for a recurring annual COLA. RPEC worked tirelessly to create this language and ensure it was retained throughout the legislative session.

The Senate budget proposal also addresses the need for greater accountability for the Health Care Authority (HCA), which selects and administers healthcare plans for many public sector retirees. The budget proposal allocates $500,000 for use by the HCA to report to the Legislature the findings from the stakeholder engagements (virtual and in-person listening sessions and virtual public forums highlighted in this Monthly Letter) taking place this spring. The proviso specifies that retiree feedback from these engagements will be used to inform policy decisions about the selection of healthcare plan choices and features. Furthermore, the proviso directs HCA to explore the availability of additional government self-insured healthcare plans with benefits that are equal to or greater than those of Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare but are more affordable. This proviso supports the intent of Substitute Senate Bill 5169, which RPEC initiated, in concert with the Public Employees Benefits Board Stakeholders’ Medicare Coalition.

While the House also intends to give a one-time 3% COLA to Plan 1 retirees in 2023, the House would prefer to pay for the COLA at a later date.  Because of this, funds are not allocated to pay for the one-time COLA in the House budget proposal.

RPEC, as well as our partner organizations, prefer the language found in the Senate budget proposal, which prioritizes the full funding of the pension plans. We aim to make sure the Senate’s proposal moves forward. Your advocacy for the adoption of the Senate’s language will help House fiscal leaders understand how high a priority this is for all public sector retirees. When you reach out, be sure to also cite the need to allocate the funding for HCA, which does not appear in the House’s budget.

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