Through years of lobbying and relationship building, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters (WSCFF) leaders successfully pushed for the passage of pension reform legislation to benefit existing and future retirees. SHB 1701 and SB 5791 unanimously passed the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.
“Our WSCFF brothers and sisters have been working toward this reform for more than two decades,” says 7th District Vice President Ricky Walsh. “I am very proud of their perseverance and dedication, never losing sight of this important goal for the membership.”SHB 1701 modifies the pension formula for Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters (LEOFF) Plan 2 members (current and future) . Retired members (retired on or before February 1, 2021) will receive a lump sum of $100 per service credit month worked, current members have the lump sum option or an extra 0.5% pension multiplier for their 16th to 25th year, and future members will have the increased pension multiplier for their 16th to 25th years. LODD and disability benefit minimums are also created.
SB 5791 benefits LEOFF Plan 1 members who became LEOFF members before October 1, 1977. These members will receive a lump sum equal to $100 per service credit month.
“Broadly improving pension benefits for our members and retirees was long overdue,” says WSCFF President Dennis Lawson. “Most of our members retire before they are eligible for any federal benefits like Medicare. This improved benefit will help bridge that gap and ensure a better quality of life post-retirement.”
Until 2003, it was difficult for LEOFF 2 members to get information about how their pensions were managed and operated. In 2002, the WSCFF and law enforcement partners invested blood, sweat and tears to pass a Statewide initiative to form their own pension board that included three fire fighters, three law enforcement officers, local government and legislators.
With better access to pension-related operations, WSCFF leaders looked for ways to improve retiree benefits and have passed more than 25 incremental improvements prior to the 2022 legislative session.
In 2008, WSCFF leaders successfully lobbied for the passage of legislation that created a benefits improvement account for LEOFF 2 members. The legislation also called for money to be deposited in the account from the state’s general fund when state revenues exceeded more than 5% over the previous fiscal biennium revenue.
The LEOFF 2 retirement fund was performing so well that it was more than 100% funded in 2019. WSCFF legislative liaisons, Bud Sizemore and A.J. Johnson, successfully lobbied for the passage of legislation that authorized the state treasurer to transfer $300 million from the LEOFF 2 retirement fund into the benefit improvements account.
As a result of the transfer, the LEOFF members had the opportunity to establish a larger benefit for the members. This, and the tireless effort of the WSCFF legislative team, ultimately led to the drafting and passage of SBH 1701 for plan 2 members and SB 5791 for Plan 1 members.