By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Some Republicans in the Senate and at least one Democrat in the State House of Representatives believe certain retired educators should receive a one-time, lump sum payment.
Republican Senator Gerald Dial, who is leading the charge, is joined by Senate colleagues Jimmy Holley, Jim McClendon, Steve Livingston, Tom Whatley and Cam Ward to sponsor SB3. In the House, Rep. Craig Ford is carrying an identical bill that will provide a one-time payment for former educators and beneficiaries who receive retirement benefits from the Teachers’ Retirement Systems (TRS).
“For far too long, we have ignored these educators who have given their time, energy and talent to helping Alabama’s school children succeed,” said Dial. “It is now time to provide these men and women a bonus that is long overdue.”
Under existing law, there in no provision made for retirees and beneficiaries who receive monthly benefits from the TRS, for a one-time, lump-sum addition to their retirement allowances. However, if passed, this legislation would provide that for the fiscal year 2017-2018.
“Since about 2008, the retirees have not had a cost of living adjustment,” said Joe Ward, President of the Alabama Education Retirees Association, Inc. (AERA). “At this point, we do not feel like Legislature will look favorably on another unfunded cost of living adjustment. So, we continue to endeavor to find a way to get a little something in our members’ pockets.”
Ward refers to this one-time payment as a “13th check” that he, like Dial and his Republican colleagues, feel is long overdue.
“It is not recurring. In other words, it would be a one-time situation,” said Ward. “There would be no future liability for the Legislature or the Trust Fund beyond that one 13th check.”
According to the proposed legislation, those retirees whose retirement proceeded October 1, 2016, and who are receiving or entitled to receive a monthly allowance from the Teachers’ Retirement System on September 30, 2017, will be eligible for the one-time bonus.
“Our retired educators devoted their lives to our children, but they have been left out of the recent educator pay increases while at the same time they have been asked to pay more and more for their healthcare,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Ford. “This bill will offer a small bonus that is long overdue, and will allow retired educators to receive the same benefit that retired state employees already receive.”
The formula for calculating the lump-sum payments is $2.00 per month for each year of service by the retiree or $300.00, whichever is greater. Those retirees for whom the bonus would effect their Medicaid benefits would be excluded from the one-time payment. The appropriation would be paid in full to the TRS by October 31, 2017, with beneficiaries receiving payment in December 2017.
Ward says this is a welcome development given the many years retirees have not seen a cost of living increase. “In the meantime,” he said, “We will be looking for some ways to find some streams of revenue or some way to have a funded COLA. But that, for now, is down the road.”