The fight for cost-of-living raise for state retirees

Published 6:08 am Wednesday, April 27, 2022

By Jim Beam

American Press

An effort by Rep. Phillip Tarver, R-Lake Charles, to give state retirees a one-time payment when surplus dollars are available ran into some roadblocks in the House Appropriations Committee. However, his proposed constitutional amendment was reported favorably and sent to the full House.

The same thing happened to House Bill 29 by Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville. His proposed amendment would require that 50 percent of all budget surpluses would be used to pay off retirement debt.

Tarver said retirees rarely get cost-of-living increases and have to struggle with rising costs. The one-time payments would be a shot-in-the-arm for those retirees, he said.

The four retirement systems are the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana, Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System, and the Louisiana State Police Retirement System.

Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, and chairman of the House Republican Delegation, said the state’s rainy day fund is first in line and gets 25 percent of any state surplus. Payments towards retirement debt then get 10 percent of the surplus.

Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, suggested an amendment putting the one-time retirement payment in seventh place. However, no amendment was adopted.

Changes to the proposed constitutional amendments by Tarver and Nelson are expected to be introduced when their legislation is debated by the full House. Committee debate indicated some major changes may be necessary on both.

Tarver has a companion bill, HB 32, that cleared the House Retirement Committee unanimously and is awaiting full House action. It sets up the mechanics of approving a one-time retiree payment if lawmakers pass Tarver’s bill and the voters approve the constitutional amendment on Nov. 8.

Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, said the Legislature could make a one-time payment to retirees with a statute and a constitutional amendment isn’t necessary.