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Eye On Boise

Senate, House part ways on PERSI COLA

The abrupt cancellation of this afternoon's scheduled hearing on HCR 42, the House-passed - and House GOP leadership-backed - hurry-up measure to block a cost of living increase for state retirees could create tensions between the House and Senate, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Joe Stegner acknowledged. "We're very aware that this may raise tensions between the two bodies," he said. "That's certainly not our intent. We're going to work diligently to be sure that this does not escalate." HCR 42 passed the House on a 48-19 vote, with just two Republicans opposing it, and one Democrat voting in favor in a failed attempt to force reconsideration after the vote.

That move followed a turnaround in the House State Affairs Committee a day earlier. That committee had voted 13-5 to kill the bill; a day later, without notice, it took it back up and passed the measure on a party-line vote, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposing the move.

HCR 42 could only have taken effect if it passed both houses by tomorrow, the 45th day of the legislative session. If it had, it would have been the first time ever that the Legislature overturned a recommendation from the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho board for a cost-of-living increase for state retirees. PERSI officials told the House State Affairs Committee last week - before the first vote that killed the bill - that they studied the issue for five months before deciding to grant a 1 percent COLA this year, and that their recommendation hasn't changed.

House Republicans said an actuarial report they received from a citizen activist convinced them the fund actually was in trouble; last week, however, PERSI was named one of the best-performing state retirement systems in the nation in a national report from the Pew Center on the States. Stegner said, "Generally, we're very proud of PERSI as being one of the recognized strongest public retirement systems in the nation. ... The Legislature wants to be sure that continues well into the future."

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.