Ways & Means Committee Passes COLA Bill
On the afternoon of Monday, March 13, the Washington State Senate Ways & Means Committee passed Engrossed Substitute House Bill (ESHB) 1057 with an amendment. The bill provides a one-time 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) to PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees in July 2023, not to exceed $110 per month. Additionally, the bill directs the Select Committee on Pension Policy to study and recommend to the legislature an ongoing COLA proposal for PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees.
The amendment adopted by Ways & Means fully funds the bill by removing amendments adopted by the Washington State House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on February 23 and on the House Floor on March 1. Instead of appropriating funds for the bill, the House’s amendments would have increased the unfunded liabilities in the pension funds. Additionally, the House’s amendments would have allowed the legislature to delay payments already committed to funding the one-time COLAs given in 2018, 2020, and 2022. The Ways & Means amendment reverts the bill to its original form.
The House passed ESHB 1057 on March 1 and the Senate passed the companion bill, Senate Bill (SB) 5350, on February 27. SB 5350 is now before the House Appropriations Committee, where it received a public hearing on March 9. If both legislative chambers do not pass the same version of the bill, it will go to a conference committee, where key legislators from both chambers will negotiate the terms of the final bill.
PERS 1 and TRS 1 are the only pension systems administered by the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems that do not receive automatic annual COLAs. Members of all other pension plans will receive automatic COLAs in July 2023.