COLA Effort Updates
A Message from PASR’s Executive Director, Mark McKillop
2019 was an eventful year for PASR. During 2019, PASR supported increased efforts to convince members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly of the need for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to their pensions. Even though PASR supports an increase for all of our members (and all annuitants), we understand the acute and special need of a COLA for pre-Act 9 annuitants (those who retired prior to July 1, 2001). For the first time in a long time, through the efforts of our Governmental Consultant and Lobbyist, Jeff Hunsicker, we had substantive conversations with key leaders and members of the Pennsylvania State House and Senate about a COLA. The need to achieve this goal is imperative and PASR will, in the coming months, provide support and leadership in this effort.
We have received many questions and requests for information regarding the PASR COLA efforts. Unfortunately, much of what happens in the Pennsylvania General Assembly happens “behind the scenes.” This is especially true with planning. The complexity of the legislative process is extensive. As a result of the many inquiries and the need to keep our membership informed, the Board of Directors and the PASR Legislative Political Education Committee has decided to send as detailed a letter as possible to our membership on this issue explaining the process and our efforts. We have also conveyed this message though email to all State and Chapter members. Hopefully, this will give our membership a better understanding and explanation of our COLA efforts thus far.
PASR’s COLA Efforts
- Formed a coalition with the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and other organizations to combine our efforts. We worked very closely with PSEA and our coalition partners on strategy, tactics, and the implementation of our strategy.
- Developed and drafted legislation that would give an increase to all annuitants with a special emphasis on those who retired pre-Act 9. Developed three cost-saving alternative proposals and have submitted them for review working with our coalition partners.
- Provided the proposed legislation to PSERS (Public School Employees Retirement System) for their review and comments.
- Contacted legislative leaders and the Governor’s Office to convey our position and the acute need for a COLA. Several legislative leaders have reacted positively to our outreach and efforts.
- Expanded our lobbyist efforts to include key rank and file legislators and committee chairs.
- Now, and in the future, it is vitally important to find the prime sponsor that would give the legislation the best chance of passing. Simply introducing a bill is not enough. It is important to note that during the process of communicating with the Pennsylvania General Assembly, several key leaders offered to either play an important role or to introduce legislation granting a COLA.
- We will continue to work and advocate for this issue when the General Assembly returns to session in mid September. Even though our goal was to achieve action prior to the passage of the budget, we will simply continue our efforts into the fall.
- In the very near future, we will be interviewing members who have an acute need for a COLA. We will be asking them to tell their story to us. We will share the information with our members, the public, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Anyone willing to tell their story, please contact our office.
What You Can Do to Get Involved
- Contact your legislators. Send letters, write emails, and contact your legislators on Facebook and Twitter. To find your legislators, use this link.
- Volunteer to provide a video testimonial to PASR. The next step of our COLA strategy focuses on the telling the stories of our members. To get legislators to understand the need for a COLA, they need to hear the lack of a COLA is truly effecting our members. We cannot do this part without you! We need volunteers who are willing to be filmed answering questions about the need for a COLA and telling their stories. To volunteer, please email email@example.com
- Make a donation to the L/PEC fund. Did you know the cost of a campaign to support the passage of a single piece of legislation has cost PASR more than $200,000 in the past and that these funds come directly from members’ donations? In today’s digital world, it’s now more important than ever to have adequate funding available. Please consider mailing in a donation using our L/PEC Contribution Form or making a donation online (member log-in required). No amount is too small to make a difference!
During the last L/PEC meeting, the committee discussed the passage of Senate Bill 621 (Act 67 of 2019) and its impact on any motion passed by L/PEC. The Bill focuses on protecting public school children and teachers, and providing schools with multiple options pertaining to school safety and security. You can read SB 621/Act 67 here.