LivingPower September/October 2023
Representing our state’s more than 357,000 state and local retirees, your NCRGEA board of directors, executive director, and government relations team create a series of legislative goals that best addresses the quality of life for North Carolina’s government retirees. These goals are developed to align with the legislative biennium, a two-year session consisting of one long and one short session, beginning in each odd-number year.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our country, there was a dramatic shift in the quality of life for everyone, including our members and all in retirement. NCRGEA worked to address this with more holistic and expansive legislative goals focusing on healthcare, telehealth, and broadband.
Our focus to keep our state’s pension system healthy and productive for you and generations of retirees remains steadfast. In this new age, job vacancies in all industries have increased substantially. This is especially true in government, where roughly 30 percent of public sector openings remain unfilled. Why does this matter to you? All public sector employees contribute to their respective pension systems. When vacancies are high, less employee and employer revenue is contributed to the pension systems.
Here’s a status report of 2023-2024 biennium legislative goals:
- Advocate for annual cost of living adjustments for all government retirees.
While the budget remains unfinished at press time, your NCRGEA government relations team has tirelessly pursued additional money for state and local retirees. Local retirees can only receive a bonus or COLA with approval by the Local Government Retirement System Board of Trustees. Such a vote will likely occur in January 2024. On our website, you can learn more about the Local Government Trustees and statutes relating to Local Government COLA processes. For state government retirees and retired teachers, bonus or COLA money is expected in the final state budget. We will send a legislative update to all members by email when the biennium budget is approved.
- Strengthen the state’s defined benefit plan to attract and retain the best and brightest public servants.
Efforts to increase salaries for teachers and state government professionals are well underway, and such raises will be released when the state house and senate agree on a tax package as well as salary pay for active employees.
- Ensure the State of North Carolina will continue to fulfill its constitutional requirement to fully fund North Carolina Retirement Systems and the State Health Plan.
The State of North Carolina is bound by the North Carolina Constitution and case law to guarantee pensioners’ benefits. The state will fully fund both the pension system and State Health Plan this biennium.
- Increase in-person and telehealth access, improving health outcomes for retirees.
Healthcare for all North Carolinians has been a battleground in the General Assembly. The largest has been a shift in legislative opinion regarding Medicaid expansion. At the same time, significant legislation on how hospitals are approved and managed, along with bills focused on improving health outcomes for the elderly and children, have been debated.
- Expand first, middle, and last-mile broadband opportunities to provide increased, dependable, affordable access to broadband.
Six broadband bills were introduced for the 2023 long session, many including expanded access in rural areas. An existing effort, the GREAT grant act, has included stepped-up funding since the pandemic.
- Expand the Bailey tax exemption for state and local retirees and pursue other tax exemption opportunities.
Tax exemption bills for government retirees were filed in both the House and Senate. It appears future discussion of this type of legislation may roll into next year’s short session.
More details on the status of bills related to NCRGEA legislative’s agenda can be found on NCRGEA’s FastDemocracy Bill Tracker, that is available to you on our website.