Bump in pay an urgent need for state retirees, Price says

Staff Report

A state senator who represents parishes in the area said he will promote a bill that will give state retirees their first bump in pay in more than five years.

State Sen. Ed Price

Senate Bill 24, sponsored by state Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzales, would provide state retirees their first cost-of-living adjustment since 2014.

The increase is long overdue, said Price, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee.

“The bill as submitted right now only allows to bring people up who are below poverty level, but we’re trying to get them back in place,” said Price, 68, who represents District 2.

District 2 include parts of Iberville, West Baton Rouge and Ascension, along with Assumption, Iberville, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James.

For many long-term state retirees, the nest egg that was supposed to provde them security has worn down with the years.

The rate of inflation has far exceeded the value of the retirement compensation for state workers who retired 20 years ago or longer.

“Our target is to get them above the poverty level,” Price said. “We’re trying to help them out.”

A different challenge looms for the fund that funnels money to those residents who have lost their jobs.

The state’s unemployment compensation fund went into the red last year when the pandemic swelled the jobless rate, while the unemployment checks increased during that period.

The replacement of those dollars is an urgent priority during the 2021 session, Price said.

“The first thing we need to do is put those dollars back into the Unemployment Compensation Fund,” he said. “We have to refund that money to keep it good and healthy.”

Aside from unemployment and retirement benefits, Price said he will focus on the infrastructure issues.

The drop in the COVID case total, coupled with the federal government relief packages, could boost the economy, Price said.

“We have so many roads and bridges that need improvement and those are things for which people can go out and get a job,” he said. “It could help toward making our economy healthy again.”