There isn’t much time to consider bills outside of major initiatives this year, but State Representative Doug Gutwein says he’ll be making a push once again to help retired teachers.
The 16th District state representative says the upcoming short session of the Indiana General Assembly will see his Employment, Labor, and Pensions Committee attempt a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, increase. Prior attempts to provide retired teachers with an increase have been met with opposition in the state senate according to Gutwein.
“We’re told now that they’re on an increase and could sustain a cost of living for these retired teachers that are living on a pretty fixed income,” says Gutwein.
The committee anticipates three meetings starting in January to attempt to make the changes.
Since 2008, retired teachers have been receiving what is called the 13th paycheck. The supplement is paid in addition to the structured 12 pension payments retired teachers already receive.
The method was used as a way to maintain funding levels in the Hoosier State’s pension systems during the recession. Admittedly, Gutwein says when his committee attempted this three years ago, money was still tight in the funds, but believes it can handle a COLA at this time.
“We’re going to do it until we get it right,” says Gutwein. “And I hope this is the year that we can say to our retired teachers, that we owe a lot to: here’s a little more money.”
Gutwein said he’s confident the COLA bill will receive a hearing in the Senate this year, saying if it cannot make it to committee, he plans to ask for a public explanation from the committee chair.
If a COLA bill is unfeasible in 2016, Gutwein says he will continue pressing for a renewed 13th paycheck bill.