Federation Lobbyist Matt Zuvich on Thursday (Jan. 26) supported HB 1288 so those in the state retirement system aren’t penalized for agency mistakes. Zuvich told the House Appropriations Committee that HB 1288 would make agencies that wrongly or by omission misclassify people as ineligible for PERS retirement system membership responsible for the cost of the mistake if the employee is later found to have actually been eligible. Without this change in the law, the cost of the mistake would be spread across those in PERS.
The Federation supported our retired members as the Retired Public Employees Council of Washington (RPEC/AFSCME) urged the House Appropriations to right an old wrong that has caused financial ruin for PERS 1 retirees. HB 1484 would provide a one-time $2 per years of service to the monthly allowance of PERS 1 retirees. It would take effect July 1, 2017, and apply to those getting PERS 1 benefits before Jan. 1, 2017. Cost-of-living increases for PERS 1 retirees have dried up in recent years and that “seriously undercuts the retirement stability of these retirees,” RPEC Executive Director Maria Britton-Sipes testified. Federation retiree Nancy Heley said the one-time boost would help a little – her pension is only $20,000 a year and a good chunk of that is eaten up by prescription drug costs.
The Federation weighed in on two Discover Pass-related bills this week.
HB 1271 reduces the penalty for failing to displace a Discover Pass, vehicle access pass or day use permit from $99 to instead equal the $30 sales price of the Discover Pass. Federation Research and Policy Director Alia Griffing told the House Environment Committee Monday (Jan. 23) that HB 1271 is a well-intentioned bill, but there are some real-world concerns. It’s a policy questions for lawmakers on the whole issue of whether it’s proper for user fees to exist for public goods and at what level, she said. The bill takes away the incentive to pay for the Discover Pass up front, she said. “We worry about the workload impact on our rangers,” Griffing told the committee. And anything that negatively impacts funding for state parks is concerning; chipping away at the user-fee only system makes sense only if those dollars are replaced, she said.
Griffing also raises questions to the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee on Tuesday (Jan. 24) about SB 5200, which would allow married spouses to combine hours for the purposes of receiving a complementary Discover Pass for volunteers. The bill is a well-intentioned but should not ignore the larger question of whether our state parks are being adequately funded now.