INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time in nearly 40 years, Indiana lawmakers have not approved a pension bonus for state retirees, neither in the form of a 13th check nor a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

“It makes a difference in how you plan, how you budget,” said Dan Sacks, who worked for the state of Indiana for 35 years and retired in 2008.

Almost every year since, Sacks has received a $450 check from the state as a bonus to his pension, known as a 13th check.

“You have a retiree making $9,600 a year… they come to depend on it,” Sacks said.

Lawmakers reduced that bonus for 2022 to a monthly 1% COLA. This year, they didn’t approve any additional payments, affecting more than 163,000 retirees, according to Jessica Love of the Retired Indiana Public Employees Association.

“Disheartening, discouraging,” Sacks said. “You feel like we had worked hard.”

A bill to provide a 13th check passed in the House but didn’t get a committee hearing in the Senate.

Senate Republicans also killed a bill this session that would have increased a tax deduction for federal retirees.

“Some of them have very minimal retirements,” said Callie Potts, a retired civil service employee who is disappointed the proposal failed to advance. “They’re just struggling month to month to cover their basic living expenses as far as food and medicines.”

When asked about the change for state retirees at the end of session, Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) told reporters that lawmakers want to explore permanent changes to the COLA system.

“We had a little bit of money for a COLA, but it was about 0.4% which really didn’t feel like enough significance to do,” Bray said.

Lawmakers will discuss options for the future in a study committee this summer, Bray said.

Love, who advocates on behalf of Indiana state retirees, argues the state has enough money to help pay for those Hoosiers’ increased costs due to inflation.

“If retirees had gotten a COLA that matched Social Security’s COLA, there would be no complaints,” Love said. “But they got zero.”

We reached out to the state senator who declined to hear the bills providing relief for state and federal retirees. We’re still waiting to hear back.