Merger – Stakeholder

On Thursday, March 14, 2019, there was a meeting hosted by Senator Van De Wege in Olympia. The stated purpose of the meeting was as a stakeholders’ meeting where consistent and factual information about the proposed merger of LEOFF 1 and LEOFF 2 would be shared. The meeting was attended by 19 people who signed in and about ten additional folks who did not sign in.  I was one hour long and started at 9:00 AM forcing many to overnight in Olympia or drive through horrible morning traffic.

No “factual information” was shared.  We were presented with a slightly altered version of the “LEOFF MERGER DRAFT” that had been circulated earlier.  The principal change was an increase in the payout to LEOFF 1 beneficiaries from $15,000 to $20,000 and setting the transfer from LEOFF 2 at $300 million.  The total cost to the fund for LEOFF 1 was reduced from $240 million to $150 million and the LEOFF 2 contribution to a “LEOFF 1 Retiree Medical Account” was raised from $105 million to $210 million.

We had hoped to understand why these proposals were being made and how the numbers were determined.  No explanation of either of these was provided.  So, we still do not know who thought up these proposals or why.  We still do not know the logic behind the ideas or the dollar numbers.

With almost thirty people in the room and with everybody getting a chance to speak you can easily understand that there was little opportunity to examine the concepts.  Senator was not particularly transparent about the source of these proposals but did claim that the State needed the money and that by not paying the State’s share of the LEOFF 2 pension contributions the state could save money.  In fact, he did say that the State would be the only winner in the process.

The meeting was closed after one hour with no attempt to engage the attendees in a dialog about the particulars of the proposals.  No opportunity was provided to discuss SB 5983 which was dropped the night before and appears to be incorporated into the merger proposal. 

We were advised there would be another “stakeholders’” meeting on Friday, March 22nd at 2 PM.  We asked for an agenda and organization where we could work on the proposal.  We asked that the proposal be put off until after the current legislative session so that we could discuss it during the interim.  That request was ignored but the Senator said he would try to have a draft bill written for our consideration—a bad idea as it would restrict and limit consideration of the concept.

So, in summary the meeting was nonproductive. We were left with the feeling that there was little interest in our concerns and that the so-called stakeholder meetings would be little more than window dressing.  Obviously, the scheduling of hearings for Monday the 18th on the House and Senate versions of $300 million transfer from the LEOFF 2 account is pretty clear evidence of the intent to fast track this legislation.  The merger becomes the vehicle to backfill the hole created in the LEOFF 2 account by the transfer of the money.

I will review the proposal step by step in my next article.  Please check back to the website.  The proposal is a bad deal for retired and active police officers and fire fighters and for the employers.  I will explain why.

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