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Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law the cost of living adjustment (COLA) bill — and proponents say it will now be easier for counties to dole out cost of living increases to pensioners.

The measure, formerly known as House Bill 239 and now called Act 63 of 2015, allows counties to grant yearly increases without having to pay those increases retroactively. Under current law, counties must pay any increases retroactively — back to when the last increase was given.

"It's a good piece of mandate relief for counties," said Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, co-sponsor of the bill. "We need to do more to help local governments reduce their costs."

Wolf signed the bill into law this past Tuesday. It will take effect in 60 days.

York County has for years denied cost-of-living raises to its retirees, partially because it would have had to pay those increases retroactively, officials have said.

Locally: The last time the county's retirees saw an increase was 2008. They were denied an increase effective 2016 by the county Retirement Board earlier this month.

Under the current law, if the county had approved a 2016 increase to the roughly 1,100 retirees in the system, it would have taken a multi-million dollar toll on the county's pension fund.

Granting a 100-percent increase for 2016, which would have included retroactive increases back to 2008, would have cost the county $11.3 million.

"Every year they (county officials) say it's too heavy a lift," said Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, another co-sponsor of the bill. "Every year it becomes prohibitively expensive."

Phillips-Hill added the law will help alleviate the pressure of the financial burden on the county.

Included in the bill is a requirement that a county's pension fund be at least 80 percent funded before an increase is awarded. That ensures it isn't drawn down too greatly by a cost-of-living increase, Grove has said.

The bill received bipartisan support, easily clearing the House and Senate.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

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