New bill proposes supplemental COLA payments for Guam retirees
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Guam senators have introduced a bipartisan bill proposing to authorize the supplemental cost of living allowance payments for government retirees.
Bill 2-37 is based on the legislature’s adoption of recommendations provided by a proposed Special Cost of Living Economic Service, a work group made up of finance and economic officials responsible for developing a report that links, at the minimum, consumer price indexes for housing rentals, healthcare, food, transportation, utilities, and fuel costs to estimate Guam’s cost of living.
The bill was introduced by Republican Sens. Telo Taitague, Frank Blas Jr., Joanne Brown, Thomas Fisher, Democratic Sens. Sabina Perez, Darrel Barnett, Dwayne San Nicolas and Speaker Therese Terlaje.
The bill's authors said the current $2,000 standard COLA will serve as a baseline in recommending supplemental cost of living adjustments. A sliding scale must be included in the required report which shall be applied to the base retirement annuity greater than $40,000. According to the director of the Government of Guam Retirement Fund, a majority of retirees earn less than $40,000 in retirement annuities. The report prepared by the Special COLA work group must be delivered to the Governor and the Speaker of I Liheslaturan Guåhan, and a copy must be published on OFB’s website no later than the first Monday of July.
Bill 2-37 requires the legislature to include an appropriation from the general fund to the Department of Administration considering recommendations by the Special COLA work group for supplemental COLA payments. Supplemental cost of living adjustment payments may not be appropriated without the report delivered and published. The Special Cost of Living Economic Service work group will be made up of the chairman of the legislature’s appropriations committee; the director of the Office of Finance and Budget; the director of the Bureau of Budget and Management Research; the director of the Government of Guam Retirement Fund; the chief economist of the Department of Labor; the chief economist of the Bureau of Statistics and Plans; an economist from the University of Guam; and, a representative of the Guam Chamber of Commerce appointed by the speaker.
“After years of inflation, many retirees like countless other families across Guam are more than ever concerned about rising prices. Transportation, food, and gasoline costs have increased mainly due to the economic spike after the worst of the pandemic – outpacing the value of COLA allowances that has been in effect since fiscal 2015,” Taitague said. “Senators must put an end to the practice of adjusting COLA benefits based on political considerations. With fiscal responsibility at the center of Bill 2-37, the measure restricts policymakers from adjusting COLA benefits without evaluating relevant economic data," she added.