COLA Issue Update from PERI

Christmas Luncheon Invitation
November 22, 2017
COLA Bill Has First Hearing in Aging and Long Term Care Committee
December 8, 2017

COLA Issue Update from PERI

(November 22, 2017) Here is the latest update on the COLA issue and HB 413, the bill introduced in the House of Representatives to enact changes requested by OPERS.  Despite what you may have heard, PERI has been working behind the scenes to address concerns we have with the proposal.  Our goal is to achieve an outcome that protects retirees from reductions in the COLA while at the same time ensuring that your healthcare benefits remain as solid as possible.

 

In this process it is important to understand that while we advocate for our members, we do so in the spirit of cooperation with OPERS and our elected officials to the extent possible.  It is for this reason that we have not asked members to contact their legislators, at least not yet.  We want to exhaust our options to work collaboratively toward an outcome our members can support.  If we cannot achieve our goal, it will then be time for you and your members to join the fight.  Rest assured we will contact you when we believe your cards, letters and phone calls can have the most impact.  In the meantime, we ask you to stay vigilant and support PERI and your local chapters.

 

66 Comments

  1. Rick says:

    Protect the cola first.

    • Dean says:

      I agree with Rick. I do not want to trade a defined COLA for healthcare that OPERS can take away any time they choose. Been there done that.

      • Chris says:

        Maybe its time we introduce a Bill making the provision of healthcare mandatory instead of allowing them to continue to hold it over our heads for any change they care to make. Seems it is time to reduce the amount of power these people have over our benefits and to hold them accountable for the promises that were made and we paid for during our years of employment. We have given up enough over the last 10-15 years and with our healthcare premiums going up almost 600% in the last 3 years it’s time these people made more efforts to protect existing retirees.!! Enough is enough.

  2. Ginny says:

    OPERS would not negotiate or cooperate with PERI in their board meeting vote about the COLA. The legislative bill was introduced quickly after the vote so OPERS must have someone powerful in the legislature backing this issue. OPERS is using the loss of healthcare as a threat to cinch the COLA deal. I hope PERI can convince the powers that be to protect our 3% COLA, but it may be too late for behind the scenes tactics.

  3. Jim says:

    The fact that Representative Kirk Schuring did not put his name on H.B. 413 but had Representative Gary Scherer sponsor it shows the underhanded subterfuge that is going on by OPERS, our “Partner”.

    How much of this 4,000,000,000.00 in savings will funnel through for bonuses?

    We should be clawing back OPERS wages and bonuses for their investment failures.

  4. Rick says:

    With debate starting on December 14, how soon is too late? When will the bill move to the general assembly or does this committee have the power change laws?

  5. Rick says:

    PERI has the names and addresses of nearly all the OPERS retirees , we should already be using this to bolster our numbers, and informing all interested and effected people of facts that OPERS will not be giving them.
    Even if they do not join PERI they can still help the cause

    • Rick says:

      BTW, this one retiree has three grown and married children, two of them in Circleville, plus I have two grandchildren of voting age, so that’s 9 voters who vote to oppose those vote to raid Papa’s pension . I’m sure many of your family will as well so it’s not just our numbers but our family as well, that has to add up To one big number of voters. Maybe that info would be of interest to the voting members?

  6. Hilou says:

    I think PERI is wrong in telling members not to write and contact legislators at this time, and that they will tell members when it is time to contact them.
    I think members should be writing and contacting legislators now.
    And specifically the eight voting members on the “Ohio Retirement Study Council”.
    Senators: Steve Wilson, Edna Brown, Jay Hottinger
    Representatives: Kirk Schuring, Rick Carfagna, Dan Ramos
    Governor appointees: Lora Miller, and Dr. Thomas Pascarella

    By the time PERI tells us to do contact them it will be too late.
    As far as I am concerned I am not impressed with PERI’s response in reference to the proposed COLA changes to date. I find that historically PERI has just been a rubber stamp to whatever OPERS wants to do.

    • Ginny says:

      I agree Hilou!

      • Mark says:

        I agree also with Hilou however PERI has virtually no bargaining power & OPERS & the state that pulls their strings knows that. We going on strike? lol Say 60,000 members/votes yet not all of them agree on this. So less than that…out of 3.5 million voters in Ohio. That is a paper tiger fighting a perpetually losing battle. They know it so they don’t care what we think or vote. The OPERS board members are mostly people who have no personal stake in this. They couldn’t care less.

  7. Michael Roberts says:

    Put the other COLA blog back up with all the responses, we were close to exposing the relationship of these actors, thanks to Jim and others. What is PERI afraid of, the truth. You can not have meaningful discussion when you have removed the main blog.

  8. Richard says:

    We need to start looking into legal remedies now. Class action suit by current retirees?

  9. Retiree says:

    Thank you for the update. PLEASE prioritize preserving the 3% COLA. It would be helpful to have a password protected Members Only page on the PERI website where all current and past PERI Member dialogues can be stored and viewed.

  10. Ginny says:

    Is the PERI defined goal to fight for the 3% COLA for its members? I believe most PERI members support this as the only option. What is there to negotiate?

  11. Daniel says:

    Question for anyone who can answer.

    Does SERS or STRS guarantee healthcare coverage or are they in the same boat as OPERS retiree’s?

    Has OPERS every looked at compounded COLA based off CPI – W ? After all they say we out paced the CPI-W.

    Social Security pays a compounded COLA off the cpi – W and they pay less into Social Security out of their paycheck then we do in Ohio PERS.

    Again We are hearing “COLA” and “Health care” in the same paragraph not only from 0PERS but now we’re hearing it from PERI is this something to be concerned about?

    Has anyone seen any financial figures that shows a deficit coming in the future where OPERS need to do this action ?

    • Dale Harmon says:

      SERS and STRS were both in financial distress at the time of their COLA changes. Neither SERS or STRS requested an increase in any of their retirees benefits. In the case of SERS and STRS, since they were both in financial distress, the State (Ohio) could, I believe, alter the terms of the “contract” to restore those retirement systems to financial health.

      In contrast, OPERS is, as they keep telling us, financially sound. Further evidence of this is that the OPERS requested changes include an increase for a select few retirees. Additionally, there is existing legal precedent that the 3% simple interest COLA, for retirees prior to 2013, is a vested contractual right. (John J. MASCIO v. PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF OHIO)

      I expect the reason for the simple interest COLA is that the future costs are predictable. I am very much against trading a vested statutory COLA for some pie in the sky promise of health care. If HB 413 gets out of committee, I will be very much writing legislators.

      • Gary says:

        I have wondered whether what the OPERS board is doing is legal. Maybe we should get the list of retirees from PERI and see if anyone is interested in getting together with an attorney and possibly start a class action lawsuit.

        • Dale Harmon says:

          To have standing in court, any lawsuit requires proof of illegal or contractual harm. Only if HB 413 or something similar becomes law will there be financial harm to those who retired prior to Jan 2013. Considering the financial issue plus the possible precedent, I would hope that HB 413 will never come out of the committee.

          This is also important to those people who are still working and close to retirement. The standard OPERS retirement is a defined benefit retirement. It provides security that the retiree will receive certain vested benefits upon retirement. If OPERS and the Ohio Legislature can retroactively change the terms of a retiree’s benefits, then no one’s retirement is safe.

  12. Ginny says:

    Both organizations are saying COLA and health care. OPERS seems to be using the loss of healthcare as threat so retirees and PERI will accept their proposed COLA deal. Bottom line OPERS may lower the COLA and eventually eliminate healthcare.

  13. Jim says:

    When I started there was no OPERS health insurance. After 30 years you received 100% of your final average salary. Then OPERS said they were reducing FAS to 66% in exchange for health insurance. Now they want to eliminate health insurance without putting us back up to 100% FAS. And now they want to reduce or eliminate COLAs. They’ll be back. Our loss will be their gain in bonuses.

  14. Daniel says:

    That is the first time I heard OPERS used to pay 100% at 30 years! They seem to leave that out when talking about how the COLA was started or the cost of health insurance. Interesting! These are the type of facts that I hope are getting to the legislators that are not old enough to realize how we got what we got . It’s easy to spend someone else’s money. In this case our money is not going in our pocket why?

  15. Jim says:

    I can’t remember whether it was ’75 or ’76, but it was late ’70s.

  16. Donna says:

    I don’t like the tone of the latest PERI update. It sounds like they are giving in. Does anyone else feel that way?

    • Hilou says:

      Donna,
      You mean you don’t like the tone of paragraph two above, where they say ……”It is important to understand that that while we advocate for our members, we do so in the spirit of cooperation with OPERS and our elected officials….. It is for that reason that we have not asked our members to contact their legislators”.
      PERI is just a rubber stamp for whatever OPERS proposes, they don’t want the members to rock the boat.
      I have received my PERI dues renewal form, and I am not paying dues again until I see what PERI does on this COLA proposal.

      • Mark says:

        I agree. What the 2nd paragraph should have said was.. PERI has no power to stop anything so get ready for another hit but don’t blame PERI because we are just innocently ‘cooperating’ with them.

    • Dean says:

      PERI was too eager to communicate their cooperation and a goal to “mitigate” the OPERS’s proposal. Statements in the lasted PERI newsletter seem to support the PERI Board i has decided to put up a fight. While the PERI Board seems to believe the legislature will readily pass OPERS’s request, I can’t imagine politicians being eager to cut the COLA less than a year before the election of a new governor.

  17. Rick says:

    This proposal is wrong and I want to fight too, we don’t need a poodle, we need a pit bull. I am willing to give PERI a chance but PERI needs to start asking exactly what I is WE want and what are we willing to compromise on. Nobody from any side has even given us the respect or consideration of asking.

  18. sue says:

    I have never joined OPERI and after following this “proposed” COLA change, I cannot see ant benefit to doing so. I MIGHT consider joining if they starting acting like our advocate but so far I haven’t seen that.

    • Dean says:

      So you aren’t a PERI member, but you visited the PERI website to express your displeasure with PERI’s response to the proposed COLA reduction?

  19. Daniel says:

    Strength comes in numbers and funding. For PERI to be strong it needs its members support. You can become a life member and a member of your Chapter. I was ok with the information supplied in the 4th Quarter PERI Perspectives. I am one of those people who retired prior to 2013 solely because I would get a fixed 3 %. I did the math projection for the Suspected Length of my retirement and felt it was the correct decision based on the information supplied to me by OPERS. I compared fixed 3% to the reduced COLA based on CPI amount if I waited to 2013 . I feel tricked into retirement by OPERS because if I knew I was going to get the COLA based on CPI off my fixed retirement amount I would have worked longer. I would have received another 2.5 % for each year worked of my FAS. I believe OPERS knew this was going to happen back then and wanted a certain amount of people to retire thinking they were going to get 3%. Then sticking them with less Benifits. That was not to long ago what a short vision for the OPERS administration who claims they have to do this for the future . There vision was not Accurate in 2012 and it’s not accurate now .

    • Daniel you hit the nail on the head.What i don’t understand is why Opers would have so many members rush to retirement and have millions of dollars drained from the retirement system. This is exactly what happen when the 3% was promise. And then you add the extra cost of retiree heath care and it adds millions more.

      • Daniel says:

        I find it hard to believe that OPERS didn’t know they would get a rush of people retiring to get the 3%. I also find it hard to believe that it was not part of there plan to add cost to change the system and reduce the Benifits. I also find it hard to believe that OPERS don’t have certain legislators that will push this through. That’s why The HB is being pushed through to make a certain time frame. What’s the hurry after all the fund is 100% funded?

    • Dale Harmon says:

      ORC 145.561, which was changed effective Jan 2013, specifically removed the COLA of those who retired after it took effect from being a vested right. “(B) This section does not apply to an increase made under section 145.323 of the Revised Code for a recipient whose benefit effective date is on or after the effective date of this amendment.”

      The obvious implication is that those retirees who retired prior to Jan 2013 have a vested right in an increase made under section 145.323 (COLA) at the rate fixed at the time of granting (145.561).

      I joined PERI to help fight against what I believe to be an illegal attempt by the OPERS board. If the vested contractual statutory COLA is cut, I then expect to be part of a class action lawsuit against OPERS and the State of Ohio.

      • Ginny says:

        I based my decision to retire in part because of the 3% COLA. I feel OPERS deceived me into believing they would stand by their word. I know now this is not true. The retirement system is not in peril, but OPERS actions on healthcare and the COLA have put many of its retirees in a state of anxiety, anger and fear of the future. OPERS posts articles about aging and how to live better with age. I find these articles insulting in the face of OPERS recent actions. Changing a fixed expectation, like the COLA, is very detrimental to retirees who are no longer able to be in the workplace because of aging, disability or other factors.

        I joined PERI when I retired. I felt an organization like PERI would fight for its members should my pension or COLA be threatened by OPERS. PERI where are you with the legislature and OPERS? Can we get an update sooner than later?

  20. Rick says:

    Went to the event In Columbus today, walked in and the big ole sign said “ OPERS Speakes”.
    Gee I wonder when they will have one called OPERS Listens?

    • Retiree says:

      What were your thoughts from the meeting?

      • Rick says:

        Well OPERS is a 100 billion dollar Wall st. jaugernaught. So you can expect a slick professional and convincing power point presentation that lasts over an hour. It is hard to tell what is real and what is overstated but they are set on cutting COLA’s . There were some good questions but they really limited the time spent on that part of the meeting.
        I just hope that we are able to prevail in the statehouse. That is where this will play out. Our reps are going to have to make them negotiate with us as the cuts are more than most of us can afford. They only see their own budgetary needs and don’t seem to see ours or consider our concerns as that important. This is a really large and bitter pill to swallow and came right out of the blue.

  21. Jim says:

    Did they say anything about sacrificing their own wage or bonuses in a show of good faith?

  22. Michael Roberts says:

    I joined PERI and sent my check. I go to the OPERS speaks on the 6th. Why aren’t they talking things like other states? The biggest public pension system, California has done away with double dipping as it was draining their system as other states have said. Other states have put a cap on earning toward a pension, say less than 200,000. Yet other states have put a tier system on COLA’s, say 3 percent up to 40,000, 2 percent up to 60,000. an maybe a 1/2 percent up 100,000. No COLA over that. We continue with QEBA, paying pension out of over 200,000 when IRS rules say we don’t have to pay past a certain point. And so many other things. If as the above person points out, if all they can do is point to wall street, why are we paying over 600 people and a lot making over 100,000 to run OPERS. Privatize it and be done with all those salaries and all the fund managers they pay. Why did they invest in money losing hedge funds and pay investors billions? They should be embarrassed as the stock market is up over 28 percent in one year alone.

    • Dean says:

      So the full worker who put in 40 years to get his pension to the highest value should receive less COLA percentage and subsidize a part time employee that worked 10 years? That’s why the system is hurting now.

      • Michael Roberts says:

        You subsidize health insurance for the lower paid employees right now its called income based discount program. The program provides a 30 percent reduction in
        the premium amount retirees pay each month for medical/pharmacy coverage through OPERS if his/her household income was equal to or less than
        200 percent of the federal poverty level. The retirees with no spouse subsidized the ones with spouses for years. We have to have ideas and not just say it isn’t fair, it isn’t what you promised, it isn’t. legal. I have serious doubts about that one, google it, one state out of 17 have stopped a COLA reduction with legal arguments.

  23. Rick says:

    We are going to need the bright lite of the press, OPERS has forgotten who really owns the money in their portfolio, and who is working for who. They want to dictate to us what we will accept without any real compromise or negotiation.

  24. Truth be told i don’t think the press or the general public could care less about our cola issue. The general pubic already think we get to much compare to S.S. Also we have and all the other public pensions across the country have been treated bad by the newspapers. I think the Operi are doing the best they can trying to work with Opers. They can only do so much. They can’t just tell Opers this is the way we want it. Opers is a very powerful pension system.

    • Donna says:

      Malcolm – I agree. We will get no public support. That being said, I paid into OPERS for 30 years while retirees got free health care and 3% COLA per year. Now when it is my turn to collect, I get the rug pulled out from under me.

      We must fight to preserve our 3%.

  25. Hilou says:

    Does anyone remember for sure?
    My recollection is that the the Ohio House and Senate were exempted from the 2012 changes to the OPERS Retirement System.
    Will they be affected by the change / loss of the guaranteed 3.0% COLA PROMISED to retirees who retired prior to 1/7/2013.

    PERI what is the answer to this question?

  26. Richard Bartley says:

    Why aren’t we starting a legal challenge to this in court before it gets too far?

  27. Richard Bartley says:

    Why aren’t we starting a legal challenge to stop this cola change?

  28. Michael Roberts says:

    50 people working at OPERS making more than the governor of Ohio. http://tos.ohio.gov/State_Pension/?retirement=Ohio_Public_Employees_Retirement_System There is no regualtion to this system Millions lost in Enron investment in the early 2000’s, more in Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008. Will the stock market up 30 percent in 1 year and they still can’t make money?

  29. Jim says:

    New leadership and an overhaul of the investment personnel is in order.

    • Daniel says:

      Michael,

      Wow, those salaries for OPERS employees are unbelievable . I was shocked when I went to the link you provided. I wonder what they pay for healthcare or if it’s completely covered for them . When you see A significant number of salaries over 100,000 and a significant number of salaries over 200,000 and then there some over 400,000 knowing that’s our money paying those high salaries. And we get reductions? It doesn’t seem to be in balance and should be an area that is evaluated the same as everything else . If Financial cuts are taken By the retirees they should also be taken by the OPERS employees. I’m willing to bet if the OPERS employees had to take same cuts they are proposing us they would magically find the money .

  30. Michael Roberts says:

    They fought the Treasurer of the State of Ohio about being on checkbook, they didn’t and don’t want transparency, they want to go on their merry way. Their is a video about that on you tube, him calling them out because they refused for a long time to be on checkbook. Incentive pay – money paid out as incentive to investment staff – over 16 million since 2009, 3,800,000 in 2016 alone. – most of it to the chief investment officer. They are paying him a bonus so he can lose our money so that our COLA can be cut. https://opers.ohiocheckbook.com/transparency#/8447/query=89A70721E1D553A457F8C8970D36BB8E back one page gives a breakdown of OPERS budget also. A video of Mandell telling his meeting with OPERS their obstruction – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqCwS6xDqKE – Mandell said this info belong to the people, the retirees, like Mandell said, what do they have to hide.

  31. Jerry m. says:

    The majority of public employee retirees in Ohio are disconnected and have made the choice to be disengaged. The reason is that a majority of these retirees are re-employed on a full time or part time basis. They feel any reduction in benefits and higher health care costs can be offset by being re-employed. I just spoke to a number of retirees i worked with at o.d.o.t. who expressed those aforementioned feelings. Not all retirees feel that way or are in position to go back to work. It is unfortunate that a majority do feel this way, and has made a decision to remain disengaged. When Opers received only 75000 to 77000 surveys in return, that should speak volumes. I have noticed the same people are also replying on this website, We need to try to get more people engaged. But, there are a majority of retirees who want to remain disconnected because they decide to do so. Just overall food for thought. Thanks.

  32. Jerry m. says:

    It also seems Opers has been working on this C.O.L.A. reduction for some time. Keep in mind, Opers already had a sponsor in the Ohio house to introduce the bill. It seems Opers will do what it takes to get this through the general assembly A.S.A.P. Retirees need to do what they feel is necessary to fight this.

  33. Michael Roberts says:

    Ok, just left the meeting which was full, one question each at the end and then the mic is pulled from you. According to Miss. Carraher doing away with double dipping would not save anything which was my question at the end, even though if you google it a lot of states have stopped it or cut it way back, she says it will not save us even though the states said it was draining their systems. Then at the end there were only 6 people to ask her questions, I brought up the QEBA, the wage cap toward pension, to tie COLA to the average yearly wage in Ohio at 3 percent, her answers to all these fell in the same category – employees would switch to the member directed or combined plan, therefore we would lose a fully paying member to the traditional plan. A women indicated her pension was going to be cut off and she had a pink card. Carraher said that is was PERI spreading false info and nothing to do with OPERS. I did get one punch it about QEBA, as you know it refers to people getting a pension of 200,000 or more and how it is paid, and I said that would be you Miss Carraher, which is quickly changed the subject and asked if I wanted my question answered or not. So if she blaming the other options for pensions for newer employees for not being able to make cost savings, then they need to increase the legacy cost of the traditional plan and charge those that choice one of the others a bigger maintenance fee to maintain the legacy plan. Her answers to any deviation from their plan is, we would have to cut health care, or it would not save money or if we did it then employees would move to the other options for newer employees for retirement and we would be worse off. It’s our way or the highway and even if you beat it or delay it the legislation then we would have to make cuts and health care would go. Someone told me I was setting next a judge and he was not happy and indicated a lawsuit. Good luck with that, google it and out of all the States, I think 17 where COLA’s have been cut, 1 state’s employees have prevailed.

    • Hilou says:

      I attended the OPERS Speaks seminar in Cincinnati today.
      My first observation was that there was an armed uniformed policeman by the door into the room. He stood in the back of the room for the entire seminar, question period, and until everyone left the room. I quess he was there in case anyone got belligerent during the meeting. I found it intimidating. I have attended numerous OPERS seminars before, and there was never a policeman on guard duty before.
      The presentation was what I expected it to be. Carraher’s mind is made up. Any question that suggested another possible course of action was quickly shot down.
      Carraher also kept inferring that if the COLA change does not take place it could result in the loss of the healthcare HRA payment. Apparently due to the current level of the pension fund, all pension contributions from current employees and their employers, are going into funding pensions, and NONE is going into the Health Care funding.
      They allowed exactly fifteen minutes for questions, and only one question per person. Unfortunately several of the people who got to ask a question used their time to thank Carraher for taking such good care of the Pension System.
      It appeared to me in talking with people after the meeting that many people do not understand what is proposed. Several people thought that the COLA is just being changed from 3.0% to 2.5%, and we will get it every year. They did not understand it will be tied to the CPI, and could result in 0.0% in some years.

      Retirees better start writing to the nine voting members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, that is the retirees only hope.

  34. Dale Harmon says:

    The Dispatch ran a story today titled: “Proposal to cut pension adjustments questioned”. This is the text of my email to Representative Brown:

    “Dear Representative Brown,

    I wish to first thank you for questioning the need for changes to the OPERS COLA as reported in the Dispatch.

    After nearly 35 years of public service, I retired at the end of 2008. In 2016 my wife and I moved from Ohio to Florida. At the time of my retirement, I believed that I was guaranteed a defined benefit retirement at the rate and under the terms at that point in time. I was also promised healthcare for myself and my wife. The healthcare promise was not guaranteed by statute and has mostly gone away. As a result, our income, even with my wife still working and the OPERS COLA, has decreased.

    The COLA is guaranteed by statute. It was changed in 2012 and those who retired after January 2013 will see a decrease in their COLA beginning in 2019. However, the COLA is simple interest and the effective rate decreases each year relative to inflation, which is compounded. (3%, 2.91%, 2.83%, 2.75%, 2.68%, 2.61%, 2.54%, etc.)

    OPERS is within the funding required by law; there is no financial crisis. This is not the same or even similar to the other public retirement systems. The full financial effect of previous legislation is still pending. Further, HB 413 paradoxically INCREASES the benefit for certain retirees.

    Finally, the 1998 court decision, Mascio v. PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF OHIO, found that at the time of retirement, a contract was formed. To retroactively change the vested COLA of retirees, such as myself would seem to breach that contract.

    I urge you to continue to question the rationale behind HB 413 and its legality.

    Very sincerely,
    Dale L. Harmon

  35. Jim says:

    With the article in the Columbus Dispatch today (thank you, Steve Toth for alerting me to it)

    http://www.dispatch.com/news/20171206/opers-cuts-rolled-out-in-new-state-legislation

    I think we had all better start writing and making phone calls.

  36. Dean says:

    This is about the Ohio GOP letting everyone know they aren’t done gutting those rich public workers.

  37. Hilou says:

    See posting put in on Friday 12/15/17 at 6:49 pm.
    I erroneously entered the posting as a reply to a previous posting.

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