OLYMPIA – Some 72,000 retired Washington public employees and teachers will receive a cost-of-living adjustment in their pensions as a result of a bipartisan bill signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Senate Bill 6340, sponsored by Sen. Steve Conway, D-South Tacoma, gives retirees in Plan 1 of the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) or the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) a one-time, 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment effective July 1.
The average yearly benefit for a retired public employee in Plan 1 is approximately $24,576; for a retired teacher, it is about $26,136. Retirees with benefits at those levels will see an increase of about $31 to $33 per month. Increases for retirees with above-average benefit levels are capped at $62.50 per month.
“Many of these public employees and teachers have been retired since the 1980s, but their benefits have been frozen in time, even as the cost of living has gone up,” Conway said. “We shouldn’t leave behind these people who dedicated decades of their lives to serving our state and our children.”
Unlike other state retirement plans, Plan 1 of PERS and TRS, which stopped enrolling new participants in October 1977, provides no cost of living increase. In recent years, retirees on these plans have seen their purchasing power decrease while health care costs have increased.
Senate Bill 6340 received unanimous approval in the Senate and the House. Proponents initially sought a larger cost-of-living adjustment, but agreed to the lower amount in exchange for a monthly $150 subsidy to help retired or disabled public employees or school district employees who are eligible for Medicare purchase health insurance coverage through Washington’s Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB).
The subsidy, set out in a supplemental operating budget that the Legislature approved earlier this month, is scheduled to increase to $168 in 2019.