Sununu, in Hudson visit, backs COLA raise

Governor confirms 2020 re-election bid

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Gov. Chris Sununu speaks in Hudson, Tuesday, on behalf of HB 616, which, if passed, would give state and municipal retirees a 1.5% annual cost of living increase. Behind him are state Retirement Security Coalition chairman Bill McQuillen, left, and Hudson Board of Selectmen chairman Dave Morin.

HUDSON – Gov. Chris Sununu wants to give state and municipal employees a COLA – and he doesn’t mean Coke or Pepsi.

Before he confirmed his 2020 re-election campaign on Tuesday, Sununu told about 60 people in Hudson he believes it is time for the New Hampshire Retirement System grant workers a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

“This is a solution that both brings property tax relief to municipalities, and allows us to give retirees a cost-of-living adjustment. The time to do something is right now,” Sununu said to a round of applause.

The governor spoke of HB 616, which, if passed by the state Senate and signed into law, would grant a 1.5% increase to state retirees receiving $50,000 or less per year, or otherwise, 1.5% of the first $50,000 of a retired member’s or beneficiary’s annual allowance.

The House passed the bill in late February. It is currently in committee in the Senate.

Sununu, joined by several local and state officials, including the bill’s chief sponsor, State Rep. Diane Schuett, who represents the Merrimack County towns of Pembroke and Chichester, and Bill McQuillen, chairman of the state Retirement Security Coalition, said the issue was being studied “long before I was governor.”

“When I became governor, I promised I’d dig into it, try to be innovative,” Sununu said. “With HB 616, I really do believe we have a solution, and I’m very proud to announce my support of it today.”

McQuillen, who’s also the president of the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire, agreed with Sununu that the time is now to act on the issue.

“It’s important to remember that it’s been nearly 10 years since our retirees last saw a COLA adjustment,” McQuillen said. “They need something to rely on year after year, and HB 616 does that for them.”

Each speaker noted that since 85 percent of state and municipal retirees live in New Hampshire, the vast majority of the money retirees spend “stays right her in New Hampshire (and) has a big impact on our economy,” McQuillen said.

Schuett, the bill’s chief sponsor, agreed with previous speakers that “it’s beyond time we do something” for retirees. She and the others praised the effort as bipartisan, and expressed optimism the bill will pass the Senate and head to Sununu’s desk for his signature.