House passes Harkins-Merski bill to help retirees on county pensions

Would allow for more frequent cost-of-living increases

HARRISBURG, June 6 – County pension annuitants struggling to make ends meet are a step closer to more frequent cost-of-living adjustments after the PA House today passed legislation introduced by state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski.

The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said they introduced H.B. 298 – which would amend the county pension law to give boards more flexibility in setting COLAs – to help retirees feeling the effects of inflation.

“Under our county pension law, when retirement boards provide a cost-of-living increase, it must be in accordance with the full consumer price index at the time of review,” Harkins said. “Although the law is well-intentioned, its rigid requirement means that our county pension boards often can’t afford to provide any adjustments at all because the index is simply too high.

“Our bill would amend the law to allow boards to grant a COLA of any percentage up to, but not more than, the consumer price index. The change would help counties and benefit county retirees who under the current all-or-nothing system might not receive a COLA for several years.

“We need to reward these seniors who helped build our community and keep them out of poverty. Ensuring that they receive timely cost-of-living adjustments would bring them greater retirement security and help them maintain the quality of life they deserve.”

Merski said, “I’m encouraged that the House passed our bill, which complements other recent measures to help seniors deal with the rising cost of living. I was proud to help pass legislation yesterday to expand the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, which is so critical for helping seniors stay in their homes, and I also support legislation that would stabilize rent increases for seniors.

With inflation at record highs, we need to make it a priority to ensure they are protected.”

The bill passed by a vote of 126-77 and now heads to the state Senate for consideration.