The Legislature approved a major pension overhaul on Nov. 15

TO:         Local Association Presidents
                MTA Board of Directors
                MTA Staff
                LPAT Coordinators
FROM:  Paul Toner, MTA President
Legislature approves bill to cut pensions for future employees
MTA wins ORP and part-time-release amendments
The Legislature approved a major pension overhaul on Nov. 15 that will reduce retirement benefits for public employees hired after April 2, 2012, by requiring them to work longer for their benefits, increasing the minimum retirement age and reducing annual pension benefits by about 3 percent.
Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign the bill into law.
The final bill did contain several amendments supported by the MTA, including allowing higher education members who participate in the Optional Retirement Program to transfer to the state retirement system, allowing creditable service for part-time release union representatives, reducing pension cuts for future long-serving public employees and increasing the base on which the annual cost-of-living-adjustment is calculated from $12,000 to $13,000.
MTA President Paul Toner said that good pension benefits are important for attracting and retaining high-quality education employees.
“We strongly opposed reducing pension benefits for future employees from the start,” Toner said. “Thousands of MTA members contacted their legislators, arguing that public employees in Massachusetts already pay the vast majority of the costs of their own pensions. We maintained that future employees should not be responsible for paying down an unfunded pension liability that was created by municipalities and the state, not by them.
“We lost those arguments,” he continued. “The recent volatility in the stock market and the weak economy persuaded legislators to limit the state’s exposure and costs by reducing future pension benefits.”
The pension bill is designed to save the state $5 billion over the next 30 years.
After the Senate approved the bill by a wide margin on Sept. 29, it became clear that the House was going to pass a similar measure. While continuing to oppose cuts in benefits for future members, the MTA also worked hard to win amendments that are important to certain current members and to long-serving future employees.
The bill reduces retirement benefits for future employees in several ways. It increases the minimum retirement age by five years, from 55 to 60, for teachers and other Group 1 employees, including MTA’s higher education members and education support professionals. The bill also changes the formula used for calculating benefits. As a result, most future MTA members will have to work about two years longer to receive benefits similar to what current employees will receive.
In addition, future pensions will be based on a five-year salary average rather than the current three-year average, typically reducing pensions by about 3 percent.
The Legislature agreed to amendments fought for by the MTA to reduce the impact on future employees with more than 30 years in the system. The formula changes will enable them to reach their maximum benefit levels earlier than employees with less than 30 years of service. In addition, the contribution rate for future Group 1 members will decrease after 30 years of service, from 11 percent to 8 percent for teachers and from 9 percent on the first $30,000 in income and 11 percent on the portion over $30,000 to a flat 6 percent for other future Group 1 employees.
The MTA fought hard for the ORP amendment. The ORP gives higher education members the option of participating in a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(k) in the private sector, rather than in the state retirement system. Under the new bill, ORP participants will be able to transfer into the state retirement system and “buy back” prior public service.
The other significant win for the MTA was a no-cost amendment that will allow employers and unions to agree on part-time leave time for presidents and other union representatives without any loss of creditable service, provided they contribute into the retirement system at the same rate as other full-time district employees. Full-time release presidents already receive this benefit.
The bill contains other amendments that will benefit a small number of members, including revisions pertaining to creditable service for maternity leaves taken before 1975, an increase in the amount of salary a retiree can earn while collecting pension benefits and an increase in the minimum retirement benefit.

ORP Admendment

Attention ORP Faculty and Members:
The ORP Admendment is included in the State and House Pension Reform Bill.  The MTA  and MCCC Leadership urged you to please contact your Senator or Representativeand ask for their support of the House Pension Reform Bill.  The ORP language in the House Bill H.3790 relates to IRS Compliance.
Dear ORP Committee members, union leaders, ORP faculty, and MTA/MCCC union colleagues across this state,


Both the Massachusetts Senate and House have included ORP amendments in their pension reform bills that would allow for higher education employees who are currently enrolled in the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) to have a one-time opportunity to transfer to the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS). Pension legislation will now move to a Conference Committee to resolve the differences in the two bills, including some differences in the ORP language.


The MTA and MCCC leadership and higher education membership applaud legislators across the state for supporting ORP amendments to the pension bills that have passed in both Chambers  A key difference in the ORP language in the House bill is the requirement for a favorable IRS ruling prior to the implementation of this legislation. This would ensure that the provisions of that legislation would be in compliance with the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and not affect the overall integrity of either the ORP or the SERS.


MTA and MCCC leadership support the addition of this IRS ruling provision as it would put to rest any remaining concerns in the State House related to IRC compliance issues. We therefore will recommend that the Conference Committee support the ORP language in the House bill: Sections 59 and 60 of H. 3790.


Contact State Legislators about the Pension Conference Committee Report:

We need you to contact your Legislators right away to ask for their support of the House’s ORP amendment language in the final pension bill. The Pension Conference Committee is expected to finalize its report before the close of formal legislative sessions next week. Please get involved if this legislation is important to you or your colleagues.


The Message:


  • Thank your Senator and your Representative for their recent support of an ORP provision in the proposed pension reform legislation.
  • Let them know that the ORP language is slightly different in the two pension bills. Ask them to support the ORP language in the House pension bill (Sections 59 & 60 in H. 3790) because of the inclusion of a requirement for a favorable IRS ruling before the implementation of this legislation. This House ORP language is supported by the Department of Higher Education and should put to rest any concerns related to the Internal Revenue Code compliance of this ORP to SERS transfer.
  • Ask your legislators if they would contact the members of the Pension Conference Committee to recommend support for the House pension bill’s ORP language (Sections 59 & 60 of H. 3790).



Contacting State Legislators:


Thank you for your continued political action in support of this ORP to SERS transfer initiative. We are moving towards the last leg of this legislative journey. Your actions today are key to the successful resolution of this ORP language by the Pension Conference Committee. Please encourage your colleagues across this state to join us in this campaign.




Diana (Donnie) McGee
MCCC Vice President & SAC Chair
MTA Director & HELC Vice Chair
Cell: 508-415-1513