Thursday, February 29, 2024

Senate Budget Proposal Favors RPEC Priorities

Senate Budget Proposal Favors RPEC Priorities

Thursday, March 23, was a big day for RPEC in the Washington Legislature.  The Senate unveiled its budget proposal, Proposed Substitute Senate Bill 5187, for the biennial operating budget (July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2025) and the 2023 supplemental operating budget.

The proposal funds a 3% one-time cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for PERS 1, TRS1, and PSERS 1 retirees invested in Plan 1.  The funding is earmarked to implement SB 5350, which includes language that RPEC worked tirelessly to insert and ensure was retained throughout the legislative session.  SB 5350 requires the Select Committee on Pension Policy to study and recommend a funding pathway for a recurring annual COLA.  The bill also provides a one-time 3% COLA (capped at $110 per month).  If this proposal is embraced by the House and adopted, Plan 1 retirees will receive the one-time COLA on July 1st.

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 includes a proviso that directs HCA to report to the Legislature the findings from the stakeholder engagements (virtual and in-person listening sessions and virtual public forums) taking place this spring.  The proviso specifies that retiree feedback from these engagements will be used to inform policy decisions by the agency.  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 for retirees. This proviso supports the intent of Substitute Senate Bill 5169, which RPEC initiated, in concert with the Public Employees Benefits Board Stakeholders’ Medicare Coalition.

Public testimony will take place on the Senate budget proposal on March 24.  RPEC will offer testimony in support of both budgetary items.

Keep apprised of the status of RPEC’s legislative priorities by taking part in the Council Office’s weekly Legislative Call, held each Friday via Zoom from 2-3 p.m.  Visit the Calendar at www.rpecwa.org for more details and to access the Zoom link.

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