Senate Lawmakers Set Course to Address COLAs for ERS Members
The Senate Retirement Committee expects to address cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for members of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) this session, according to Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), chair of the committee. Robertson indicated in today’s committee meeting that ERS COLA changes are unlikely to be made via SB 167, legislation introduced by Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta). SB 167 aims to establish a semi-annual 1.5 percent COLA for ERS, which includes members of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). PSERS is the retirement benefit for some classified school employees not eligible for membership in the Teachers Retirement System. Robertson reported that changes outlined in SB 167 carry a price tag of more than $5 billion, according to an actuarial study of the bill, and the committee will not move the bill forward. Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), vice chair of the committee, has worked with ERS leadership to provide retiree COLAs at a lower cost, said Robertson. More on SB 167 is available from PAGE HERE, and an overview of PSERS and the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) is available from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute HERE.
Robertson also referenced concerns about SB 267, legislation sponsored by Sen. Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville) that would allow TRS members who participate in an optional retirement allowance that includes one or more beneficiaries to change a beneficiary once every three years. The unfunded liability expected to result from SB 267 is approximately $727 million, according to an actuarial study. Robertson reported TRS staff have identified possible strategies to address changing beneficiaries at a lower cost and expects hearings this session to discuss this issue.
Bill to Increase Transparency for Private School Voucher Program Falls Short
Introduced in 2021, HB 517 from Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) responds to a review of the state’s tuition tax credit private school voucher by the Georgia Department of Audits, which identified multiple areas in which the program lacked transparency and accountability. The audit department recommended a series of action steps.
A new analysis from PAGE outlines recommended action steps included in HB 517 as well as those not included in the legislation. Before moving forward with the bill, lawmakers should revise HB 517 to include all audit department recommendations. State policymakers should also add provisions which measure the voucher program’s impact on students, as PAGE has previously recommended. The tax credit voucher program has never been meaningfully evaluated, and data on students is limited to one measure of family income. A summary of HB 517 is available from PAGE HERE and the analysis is available HERE.
Gov. Kemp’s State of the State Address
Gov. Brian. P. Kemp will deliver his 2022 State of the State Address Thursday, Jan. 13, at 11 a.m. He will also release his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which will then begin the appropriations process. Kemp is expected to propose a pay increase for Georgia educators and other state employees and address the $383 million cut in state funding for public schools for the current year. PAGE has strongly advocated for educator pay increases and elimination of the funding cut and will report on any announcement Thursday.
Thursday, Jan. 13: Legislative Day 3/Gov. Kemp’s State of the State Address
Friday, Jan 14: Legislative Day 4
Jan. 17-21: Joint Appropriations Hearings
Monday, Jan. 24: Legislative Day 5
Tuesday, Jan. 25: Legislative Day 6
Wednesday, Jan. 26: Legislative Day 7
PAGE Day on Capitol Hill Signup
Please make plans to join us at PAGE Day on Capitol Hill, Feb. 22, 2022, by registering HERE.