The North Carolina General Assembly’s recent session adjourned with several accomplishments, however it fell short in addressing the needs of government retirees. The North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association is appreciative for the 1.6 percent one-time, cost-of-living bonus for teachers and state government retirees but knows it will not meet the needs of government retirees. Plus, this bonus does not apply to local government retirees, who are the retired law enforcement, public utility workers and many more who dedicated a life of service to their communities.
Over the last eight years, the rate of inflation has increased 12 percent, while government retirees have received at most, a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment. After providing service to the state, average annual pensions for local government retirees is $17,000, while teacher and state government retirees is $20,500.
NCRGEA frequently receives phone calls from members struggling to decide between filling a prescription or putting food on the table. As a government retiree myself, this is heartbreaking as these are the people who have protected our residents, educated our children, built and maintained our transportation system and protected our natural resources. Public workers are vital in helping keep North Carolina a sought-after destination to live, work and retire.
It is important for the General Assembly to make government retirees a priority. Prospective and current government employees will one day be retirees themselves. In order to attract and keep these valuable public workers in North Carolina, they need to know they will receive the financial benefits promised to them in retirement.
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We wholeheartedly engaged with the General Assembly during this short session. We continually encouraged legislators to address the needs of government retirees, including a COLA, maintaining the defined-benefit system and fully-funding the State Health Plan. We hosted a dedicated Lobby Day for our Board of Directors to visit the General Assembly and reached out to all legislators to stress the importance of making government retirees a priority.
Though the most recent session has concluded, we continue to expand our presence and work to influence the General Assembly on all the needs of government retirees. We continually strive to make our voice heard and ensure government retirees are a priority to the legislature.
Richard Rogers is executive director of the North Carolina Retired Government Employees Association.