Lawmakers have allowed only minor colas for retired teachers

On March 1 our Legislature crossed its fiscal bill cutoff, declaring bills trapped in committee officially “dead.” Their only hope is if House Appropriations Committee Chairman Timm Ormsby or Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Christine Frockt, declare them “necessary to implement the budget.”

The now-dead House Bill 1390 would provide a one-time, 3 precent cost-of-living adjustment to Washington state’s oldest and least well-paid school retirees, Public Employees Retirement System 1 and Teacher Retirement System 1.

Plan 1 opened in 1933, provided no COLA and closed in 1977; 70 percent of its members are women in their 70s, 80s or 90s who never earned what even a first-year Everett teacher makes today.

The average school retiree annually receives $21,768 for a retirement for which he or she paid 6 percent from every paycheck. Except for last year’s one-time 1.5 percent COLA, (on average $27.40 per month) they receive today what they did in 2010.

The 12 other state retirement plans provide annual COLAs capped at 3 percent. From 1995 to 2010 Plan 1 received the discretionary Uniform COLA, also capped at 3 percent, but the Legislature killed it in 2011, costing Plan 1 retirees from lost purchasing power.

Legislators do not set their own salaries, but while they’ve held Plan 1 retirees to 1.5 percent, their own 2019 salary of $53,024 is 27.28 percent more than their 2011 salary of $42,106 (not including their $120 daily living allowance), and they’re due 8.8 percent more in 2020.

Plan 1 retirees don’t ask for their lost purchasing power, but to halt their downward slide now. Deserving an annual COLA, they must instead beg Rep. Ormsby (email:, for the one-time 3 percent of HB 1390 because nothing better is offered this session.

Timothy Knopf


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