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RPEC Response to UCOLA Lawsuit Decision

View Press Release 8-14-14

Washington State Supreme Court Rules Against Public Sector Retirees

Olympia, Washington – August 14, 2014 – Today the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the legislature had the right to eliminate COLA protections and gainsharing rights for Washington’s public employees.

The Retired Public Employees Council of Washington (RPEC) and other public employee groups had sued the state after the legislature acted to repeal these benefits and lower court decisions overturned the cuts.  The Supreme Court decisions today, however, mean that Plan 1 members will have no future cost of living adjustments.

“The court’s decisions mean that retirees will face a future of stagnant benefits while the cost of living and medical costs continue to escalate” said Maria Britton-Sipe, Executive Director of RPEC.  She noted that the average benefit for Plan 1 members is $1,892 per month and the average benefit for Plan 2 members is $1,256 per month.  “These benefit cuts are a slap in the face to retirees who are struggling to maintain their standard of living and dignity as they age” she said.

The only bright spot in the rulings was that some Plan 2 members will continue to have access to earlier retirement under some circumstances.  That benefit would have been jeopardized if the court had overturned the COLA and gainsharing repeal.

Britton-Sipe said that the rulings today should motivate retirees and active public employees to push legislators to reinstate the lost benefits through the political process.  She noted that retirees are a growing segment of the electoral process and are more than willing to hold legislative candidates accountable for their positions on pension security.

The full text of the decisions can be found here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.recent, then click on Case Info/File 88546-0.

For more information, contact Maria Britton-Sipe at 1-800-562-6097.

3 comments

  1. It will be impossible for retirees not to have to work as the cost of living continues to increase.

  2. Any plans for legislation to at least mitigate the theft of the Uniform COLA? Allow retirees to apply for the optional COLA (if it makes sense to them from a tax planning perspective), a lump some payoff (although the horse is already out of the barn and the state won with their theft), reversion back to the old COLAs that were in place prior to the Uniform COLA, establish some type of longevity insurance that the state would partly contribute to that retirees could optionally purchase? Just some ideas.

  3. The failure of the Legislature to restore annual contributions previously not made, during several years, when employees were required to contribute their full share, remains a concern. It has contributed to the State position that they could not afford COLA’s, and has resulted in the well published reports that Plan 1 is not fully funded. I am pessimistic about any prospect that the public, out of the kindness of their heart, would spend money on retirement increases for old retirement beneficiaries, especially with so many other priorities. I do believe however, that there is an unpaid debt, owed to those retirees, based on the need to restore funds previously misappropriated.

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