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Public, teacher, law enforcement retirees won’t get extra pension help in new state budget

By Brandon Smith, IPB News | Published on in Economy, Government, Politics
Public, teacher and law enforcement retirees have received either a 13th check or a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their pension benefits in almost every state budget over the last three decades. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

Nearly 100,000 public, teacher and law enforcement retirees won’t get any extra pension help from lawmakers in the new state budget.

In almost every budget going back three decades, the state has provided either a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, to monthly pension benefits, or it’s given retirees a 13th check – an extra month’s worth of benefits.

This year’s budget includes neither, much to the frustration of Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield), a longtime advocate for such support.

“At times like now with food and heating, oil and everything you turn around and touch costing more, it’s not a way to treat our retirees,” Cherry said.

Cherry said Senate Republicans were the reason for no 13th check and will have to answer for it.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said he thinks the legislature should “get out of the 13th check business” and focus solely on the cost-of-living adjustment.

“We had a little bit of money for a COLA, but it was about 0.4 percent, which really didn’t feel like enough significance to do,” Bray said.

A 1 percent COLA in the last state budget cost $50 million. A 13th check in this budget would’ve cost $34 million.

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The state is projected to have budget reserves of nearly $3 billion.

There is language in the new budget to study a way to regularly include COLAs for retiree pensions going forward.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.