COLA Effort Updates
May 11, 2021: To PASR Members – On the Pennsylvania primary ballot, there are four ballot questions. For more information, here is the link with the Pennsylvania Department of State: Ballot Questions Page
2019: 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.
A Message from PASR’s Executive Director, Mark McKillop
A message from the Board of Directors
PASR Statement on PSERS from the Board of Directors
(May 26, 2021)
Due to recent news about issues involving the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR) is compelled to respond as it funds our pensions in retirement. Since PASR represents only retirees and not active members, issues involving alleged malfeasance at PSERS significantly impacts our members and their livelihoods.
PSERS has acknowledged that there is an active FBI investigation along with a federal grand jury investigation into its recent operations. At this time, there is no evidence or information leading to the conclusion that any pension has been placed in jeopardy.
Please note that PASR and PSERS are separate operations without any direct connection, therefore the investigation does not directly involve our organization.
Reason for the Investigation
There is a shared risk provision with active (non-retiree) PSERS members under Pennsylvania State Law that is based on an investment “window” of nine years. If PSERS investment returns fall below 6.36 percent over that nine-year period, a shared risk provision increases the amount that public school employees, who were hired after July 1, 2011, pay into PSERS. Originally, PSERS certified that the nine-year return was 6.38 percent. Later, PSERS held a special meeting and changed the number to 6.34 percent which activated that shared risk provision.
News reports surfaced that indicated a possible investigation was underway at PSERS about the estimation of the nine-year investment return and the process it took to reach that number. Recently, additional reports have indicated that the investigation goes beyond the process of the estimation. At this point, it is speculation until there is a second party validation.
As a result of the pending investigations, PSERS has acknowledged hiring at least four outside law firms to represent them. Also, PSERS has acknowledged hiring an additional outside consulting firm to help with investments during the time their staff is under investigation. This will result in additional money being spent in addition to normal management and personnel costs. PASR will seek information about the impact of those additional expenditures.
The PSERS investigation will take time to run its course, and we must respect that process. It is important to note that the average federal grand jury investigation usually takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete.
PASR will closely follow this issue and we are committed to providing factual updates to keep you informed as the investigation progresses. We are here to be a trusted resource and will continue to advocate on your behalf.
We sincerely appreciate our members and leaders who have reached out to us to comment and seek additional information. We rely on feedback from our members, and we will continue to be responsive.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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!