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Monday, July 16, 2007

Good Intent

I just got through reviewing the Board packet that accompanies the meeting agenda for the PERS Board (PERB). The monthly meeting for this month is Friday July 20 at 1 p.m. The agenda doesn't appear to be terribly interesting, but there is one item that should please almost all "window retirees". Apparently, as a result of the Arken/Robinson ruling, PERS will consider restarting the COLA process for all "window retirees" who haven't been invoiced under Strunk/Eugene (these people have COLA restoration already but under different circumstances). The PERS staff is recommending that the July 1 2007 COLA be restarted for all the uninvoiced retirees effective immediately. This would mean that if the PERB approves the staff recommendation, we should see a 2% increase in our next (August 1) payment. This will have a small impact on the Strunk/Eugene balance if that process resumes, but that question remains quite open right now. I will be attending the meeting on Friday and will know for certain whether there is any opposition to this proposal. I doubt there will be as there is more than sufficient money to do this and PERS staff appears to be somewhat "sensitive" to the fact that some of us have gone almost 5 years without any benefit increase. This is the first ray of sunshine for many of us in a very long time. The Arken/Robinson outcome was really good news, but actually resuming the COLA process is even better news. Hopefully, we can count on this to take place. I'm very positive about it. I'll be even more positive if we start seeing reimbursement for the previous 4 years of lost colas. Please don't mistake my optimism as a sudden reprieve for PERS. Run the SartainLipscomb calculator and find out what you're really missing. This barely takes the sting away, but they have to start somewhere and now is as good a time as any.

There are some who are very suspicious of PERS' actions and motives for doing this. I would be derilect if I were not to acknowledge the downside of the PERS decision. It could be that PERS is doing this to look like a good citizen before going before Judge Kantor on August 16. If they had just let another COLA go unpaid, they could be subject to all kinds of repercussions from Judge Kantor. This may be nothing more than another attempt by PERS to distract attention from what they are really doing. At this point in the game, I wouldn't put this past them. On the other hand, PERS has admitted in its staff memo that COLAs are automatic UNLESS there is an exclusion list, which has been what all window retirees have been on since 7/1/2003. If COLAs are automatic and all it takes is a "no exclusion" switch in their RIMS system, it will make it much harder for PERS to claim hardship if the court orders restoration of all past COLAs. So, even if PERS is just playing legal games, this could come back to bite them. Too bad, so sad. (And BTW Curtis, I agree with you. Arken/Robinson is the catalyst that makes everything else happen. It deserves more credit than I gave it above. The COLA resumption is driven by Arken/Robinson, not the reverse.)

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