Tuesday, June 30, 2009

...And the train keeps a rollin'... WMS and Disability Retirement

We have had some calls wondering where a few projects left over from the Legislative session were at, so we thought we'd update our reader, and maybe he/she will spread the word.

EHB 2049, the WMS study bill called for a study of WMS/EMS. We are happy to be able to report that the state auditor, Brian Sonntag's office will be conducting the state wide performance study. We are very excited about the opportunity to work with the great staff team over at SAO. We can count on an unbiased and thorough examination of the issue that will be performed by a competent and professional team. The auditor’s office is ready to proceed with the study right away and they are in the first stages of making that happen.

I have been told that some of the state agencies have run into trouble trying to collect data about WMS/EMS bonus' and performance pay. I am not sure what the issues are, whether it is about them not having kept track of the data, or if it is some kind of IT problem, but I am told that it may be a while before they are ready to comply with the reporting requirements. Luckily, that won't slow down Sonntag's crew. The bill's sponsor, Representative Larry Seaquist of the 26th district, is still very much involved. We have spoken to him several times since the end of the legislative session, and he continues to show support and interest in keeping the project moving forward.

Another holdover issue is the disability retirement study. This is a study that was funded by the legislature to be performed by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy. This study will focus on the feasibility of the state providing a benefit to those members of the public employees’ retirement system (to include teachers) who suffer a catastrophic health event and can no longer hold meaningful employment. The other focus of the study will be the potential for employee paid insurance benefit that would cover the penalty a state employee would suffer if they had to retire early due to a catastrophic health event. The idea is similar to disability insurance currently available to some state employees. The current program stops coverage in the event that one could not return to work. This proposal would kick in at that time and cover the actuarial penalty to the employees retirement benefit.

There will have to be some limits to these benefits, to hold down cost. A few that have been suggested are that eligibility would be limited to those employees with 15 years of service or more, the level of disability has to be profound enough that the person can no longer hold down any meaningful employment (similar to the current SSI standards) and the insurance feature would be an "{opt out" policy offered at the beginning of an individuals employment.

WSIPP has started study on the issue and should have findings by November or so. By August they should have a pretty good idea of what the universe looks like, so we should be able to tell you more about it then. If the study offers conclusions that seem economically feasible, then you could expect us to forward legislation to make it happen.

Well, that is all for now. Have a great independence day and remember: Democracy is not a spectator sport. You have to play to win. Get in the game...what are you waiting for?

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