We conduct research, maintain contact with the Port Authority, cooperate with other retiree associations, encourage retirees to work together toward common goals and develop programs in support of PARA objectives. From its inception, a major activity of PARA has been to work closely with all interested parties to promote better cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to retiree pensions. We are an active member of the Alliance of Public Retiree Organizations of New York (APRO). While these efforts have helped to achieve some key improvements thus far, much more is needed. PARA is continuing to confer actively with other retiree groups, the New York State comptroller, New York State legislators and others to push for changes in legislation that will help New York State retirees keep pace with increased living expenses.
In New Jersey, we have been monitoring proposed pension law changes and working to obtain a more equitable treatment of the pension deduction under New Jersey's gross income tax provisions.
Through our para~phernalia newsletter, we keep PARA members informed on our work to help achieve a better COLA arrangement and on other topics of interest.
The Port Authority Retirees Association (PARA) History
Retirees depend on their pensions to maintain their quality of life during their senior years, but over time with inflation their purchasing power is diminished. Every few years, the New York State Legislature would half heartedly recommend a "supplement" for NY State Retirement System retirees and then forward the legislation to the Governor for signature. More often than not the Governor would not sign the legislation, thereby causing financial hardships for many retirees.
In the early 1980's Comptroller Regan wrote to Governor Cuomo stating that "an employee who retired in 1976 has only received supplementation of 6% and yet the cost of living increased by 89%." This left many Port Authority retirees thousands of dollars behind federal retirees and pensioners from other states whose pensions were tied into the "Cost of Living Adjustment" (COLA) index.
Those original eight Port Authority retirees who created PARA were:
Harold A. Milley, President
Cyril V. Storer, Vice President
John A. Huston, Jr. Treasurer
Board Members -
Cletus F. Bamber
Ralph A. Johnson
Stephen P. Kenny
Francis H. Werneke
The PA Human Resources Department provided PARA an address list of all Port Authority retirees. The first semi-annual PARA Newsletter issued in May 1987 clearly identified the need for a COLA. Retirees were made aware of the need for group action and were provided names and addresses of those legislators who needed to be contacted about the problem.
That first Newsletter also identified that PARA was working closely with the Retired Public Employees Association (RPEA). RPEA includes all of the New York State Retirement System retirees and has 19 active chapters throughout New York State and several "retiree" states such as Florida and the Carolinas. In fact, in the late 1980's PARA and RPEA officers were instrumental in creating another group called the Alliance of Public Retiree Organizations (APRO) that includes the Retired Teachers Association, the Retired Police Association and many other retiree groups that represent a total of over 500,000 retirees. A PARA representative attends monthly APRO meetings in Albany to assure that all NYS retirees are working together on common retiree issues.
The most important issue facing PARA, APRO, and RPEA was getting a COLA adjustment. That effort finally proved successful...to a degree. Your September 2000 pension check showed an increase of 50% of the actual COLA index for the first $18,000 of your pension. In addition all future pension checks will be increased annually in September based on 50% of the actual increase in the cost of living for the first $18,000. We are clearly not satisfied with this but it is a beginning. PARA, APRO and RPEA have continued to work diligently to get a full COLA, not a 50% COLA and we want it for the full amount of the pension. This is a long term commitment that will require perseverance, coordination and good timing as we face significant obstacles.
Besides COLA issues PARA has been working on bringing retirees together via a greatly expanded and more professional semi-annual Newsletter with photographs, news items and other articles of interest to Port Authority Retirees. PARA has established a "PARA WEBSITE" that contains links to many other established websites including, but not limited to: the PANYNJ, NYS Retirement System, Social Security System, United Health Care, ExpressScripts, etc. etc... The PARA website also has other informative and interesting features such as "Retirement Flyers" and "PA News". The website will continue to be expanded in the future your suggestions are welcomed.
The modest annual dues of $10.00 helps retirees to keep apprised of what is going on that may affect them.