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Court: State can nix public pension increase

SEATTLE TIMES — August 14, 2014: The Legislature had the right to eliminate state employee pension increases that were approved during the stock market boom of the 1990s, the Washington Supreme Court said unanimously Thursday in two decisions that save the state billions of dollars but leave many public employees feeling cheated.

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The Washington State Supreme Court today, August 14, 2014,  issued opinions in two cases related to the state’s pension systems. One case involves gain sharing provisions and early retirement benefits for members of certain state retirement plans; the other involves an annual increase for retirees in two closed pension plans (also known as the Uniform COLA or “UCOLA”).
As of December 31, 2013, state and local government retirement systems held assets of $3.88 trillion. These assets are held in trust and invested to prefund the cost of pension benefits. The investment return on these assets matters, as investment earnings account for a majority of public pension financing. A shortfall in long-term expected investment earnings must be made up by higher contributions or reduced benefits.
Just as a wheel goes around the seasons and the events repeat themselves. As you know, we are in the primary election period. We have received requests for donations from many candidates and elected officials facing reelection. We don’t get too involved in the primary election because most incumbents will survive the primary and be in the general election. In some districts there are three and four candidates and no way to know who is the strongest. There are some exceptions however. When someone has held a position and is running for a higher office, when someone has worked in local government and is now running for a legislative position, or when a candidate has been on the staff of an elected official and is running for office. We have to consider both parties. We have had good friends and so called enemies in both parties. We must be considerate to those who are sympathetic to our needs and at the same time acknowledge those who will give us the opportunity to discuss an issue and explain our position. After such a discussion some have voted for us on some issues and against us on others. We can’t ask for their support on every issue but we can ask for and expect the opportunity to explain and hopefully persuade them to support or oppose a particular issue or legislative bill. I have been involved in this process since 1962 when I was first elected to the Executive Board of Seattle Firefighter Union Local 27. I can give you examples of how or when one of the two parties has helped us and when one of the two parties has hurt us.

You never know when disaster might strike. Within minutes, cherished or valuable goods could be ruined. Keeping an archive of your belongings will accelerate the process of replacing damaged property. It will also help you make better decisions about the insurance coverage you need before a disaster strikes.

Follow these three simple steps to archive your home:

Make a list of your possessions. Some people prefer a low-tech approach to list-making—index cards or a notebook, for example—while others are comfortable with spreadsheets on a CD or USB drive. The method doesn’t matter, as long as the list is thorough, well-organized, and kept in a safe place. You should also remember to adjust your files periodically, deleting items you’ve gotten rid of and adding any new purchases.

(Editor's Note: Dick's message this month deals with a number of internal issue for the RFFOW, so RFFOW members or retired Firefighters should refer to Dick's publication for important membership information.  We have extracted Dick's excellent discussion of the Oso mud slide and include it in this article.)

Our hearts and prayers go out to the residents of Oso and to the families and loved ones of those who were killed, injured or missing in the tragic Snohomish mudslide. Governor Inslee said “This tragedy is one of the worst in Washington history and one of the deadliest landslides seen in the United States.” We have seen many tragedies in our careers, accidents and natural disasters, but I don’t believe many of us have witnessed anything of this magnitude in our private or professional life.

The National Association of State Retirement Administrators has published a February 2014 brief on cost of living adjustments (COLA) for state and local retirement income.

Most state and local governments provide a COLA for the purpose of offsetting or reducing the effects of inflation, which erodes the purchasing power of retirement income. Such depreciation can affect the sufficiency of retirement benefits, particularly for those who are unable to supplement their income due to disability or advanced age.

Social Security beneficiaries are provided an annual COLA to maintain recipients’ purchasing power. Similarly, most state and local governments provide an inflation adjustment to their retiree pension benefits.

LEOFF 1 COLA for 2014

COLAs for LEOFF Plan 1 - EFFECTIVE APRIL 1, 2014

Retirement Dates

Adjustments

April 2, 2013 – March 31, 2014

0.00%

January 1, 2013 – April 1, 2013

1.22%

April 2, 2012 – December 31, 2012

3.79%

Prior to April 2, 2012

1.22%

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