Aye Aye Captain!
By David R. Noyes EdD
A witty colleague, a school retiree, exclaimed, “Captain Morgan had an easier time than we do getting a cola.” This glib remark was a nice way of expressing frustration with the General Assembly’s failure to pass a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for seventeen years for school retirees.
While humorous, in the interest of educators and historical accuracy, some historical fact finding is necessary. Captain Morgan, aka Sir Henry Morgan, was a British privateer in the 17thcentury. A privateer was a “legal pirate” of sorts. The British crown authorized Captain Morgan to protect its rights in the Caribbean Sea. Duly empowered, Morgan preyed on ships of other nations, mainly Spanish vessels, with the blessing of the crown. Morgan’s crew, therefore, was never far from the rum which flowed freely in Caribbean ports, but what about the cola?
Reader’s Digest reported recently on the personality of certain adult beverage drinkers, and concluded that “Rum and cola drinkers are young at heart”. We hope that Sir Henry was not looking for the fountain of youth in a cocktail in 1675. Coca -Cola was invented a mere 198 years after Morgan’s death in 1688. Pharmacist John Pemberton invented Coke in 1886. Alas, the Captain never had a cola!
PASR has been going through great lengths to ensure that you do not end up without a COLA.
Max Krugle, Legislative and LPEC Co-Chair, and Mark McKillop, Executive Director of PASR have put together the following status report.
“We strongly believe that it is essential to reach out and explain our current status. The development and implementation of our legislative efforts were a result of the work of the PASR Board of Directors and the members of the Legislative Committee and L/PEC.
Here are some key steps we have taken during our recent efforts:”
Realizing that a coalition is more effective and important than a single entity, we have contacted PSEA to combine our efforts. Not only is this the most logical approach, it is professional behavior with a focus on the result and not the process. We worked very closely with our coalition partners on strategy, tactics and the implementation of our strategy.
Working in conjuncture with our partners, we developed and drafted legislation that would give an increase to all annuitants with a special emphasis on those who retired pre-Act 9.
After the legislation was developed and shared with our partners, the proposal was conveyed to PSERS (Public School Employees Retirement System) for their review and comments.
The lobbyists for PASR and our partners contacted Legislative Leaders and the Governor’s Office to convey our position and the acute need for a COLA. Several legislative leaders have reacted positively to our outreach and efforts.
After we received an estimate of the cost of our proposal and we developed three alternative proposals and submitted them for review working with our coalition partners.
We expanded our lobbyist efforts to include key rank and file legislators and committee Chairs.
It is important to note that during the process of communicating with the Pennsylvania General Assembly, several key leaders offered to either play a key role or offered to introduce legislation granting a COLA. Now, and in the future, it is vitally important to find the prime sponsor that would give the legislation the best chance of passing. Simply introducing a bill is not enough. We are working on a COLA for all PASR members but we understand that there is an acute need for those who are pre-Act 9 annuitants.
After the budget passed without any action on a COLA, we met to reassess our position and to plan the next step in the process.
We will continue to work and advocate for this issue when the General Assembly returns to session in September. Even though our goal was to achieve action prior to the passage of the budget, we will simply continue our efforts into the fall.
“Our mission will not be over until we achieve success. We will not be deterred during the process of obtaining a COLA for our members. This issue is never far from our minds.
It is important to remember that the legislative process presents many challenges and a great deal of complexity. The passage of any legislation is a two-step process that involves working with leaders and members of both the House and the Senate. What may be successful in one House of the General Assembly is not necessarily what will work with the other. In addition, any legislation will need the Governor’s support. The time is now and the need is critical and it is very important to our membership. “
It is hoped that you continue to be optimistic about a COLA and believe it will occur in the near future. It is also hoped that you do so in good health. May your fortunes be good and may you “Live like a Captain”.