Joint resolution passes state Assembly, aims to increase Social Security benefits for public sector employees

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The California State Assembly passed Assembly Joint Resolution No. 41, or AJR 41, on June 25, requesting that Congress and the president repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision from the Social Security Act.

The resolution was authored by District 15 Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, to ensure that California public employees — including teachers, firefighters and police officers — receive all of their Social Security benefits.

“If AJR-41 passes and the recommendation is adopted by the federal government without any further action, it appears likely that our employees would benefit from eligibility for increased Social Security benefits,” said Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, public information officer Charles Burress in an email.

According to a press release from Thurmond’s office, more than 300,000 retirees in California have had their Social Security benefits reduced or eliminated because of these laws. The resolution adds that the state needs highly qualified personnel for government agencies, including more than 16,000 teachers each year, and that the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision hinder the recruitment of these professionals.

Burress said that if the resolution becomes a law and the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision are repealed, then BUSD will work with its employees to help them with the change.

The resolution has been supported by the California Retired Teachers Association, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers and the Association of California School Administrators.

“The Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision collectively present a large deterrent to recruiting new public school educators upon leaving the private sector and peace officers and firefighters from other states,” Thurmond said in a press release. “These provisions should be repealed in order to address recruiting shortages in both fields and restore fairness for families depending on social security benefits upon retirement.”

According to the Social Security Administration’s website, if a spouse, widow or widower is receiving a government pension and pays Social Security taxes, the Government Pension Offset reduces Social Security benefits by two-thirds of the government pension. To many receiving these benefits, if two-thirds of their government pension is more than their Social Security benefit, those benefits could be reduced to zero.

In addition, the site also states that the Windfall Elimination Provision cuts the amount a retiree can earn from Social Security based on the number of years they have worked.

“On a personal note, I hope it passes,” said Berkeley Fire Department spokesperson Keith May. “It does do good for people and helps with retirement since Social Security benefits won’t be cut.”

Contact Suryan Bhatia at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BhatiaSuryan.