Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 238 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


Employees of the University of Washington now under the University's retirement system may not be brought under the coverage of federal social security.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                February 15, 1952

Mr. John Spiller
Counsel for the University of Washington
University Campus
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 238

Dear Sir:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of January 22, 1952, in which you request our opinion as to whether the regents of the University without abandoning or altering the annuity purchase program to the extent of matching five percent of monthly salaries, could agree to federal social security coverage for University employees by way of addition.

            It is our conclusion that the regents could not bring about federal social security coverage by way of addition to the present retirement program.


            Employees at the University of Washington are provided with a retirement program pursuant to chapter 223, Laws of 1937, as last amended by chapter 223, Laws of 1947 (§ 4543-11 Rem. Supp. 1947) by which employees of the institution are required to contribute five percent of their salaries toward the purchase of annuities provided by the Board of Regents through a contract with a private company.  This system is set up pursuant to authority of law, state funds finance the employer's contribution, and it is compulsory for employees within the state retirement system and the legislature has recognized it as a retirement plan in subsection 7, section 7, chapter 240, Laws of 1949, as amended, whereby it specifically exempted from that system

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "employees of the University of Washington * * * during the period of service necessary to establish eligibility for membership in the retirement plans operated by such institution."

            It is thus apparent that the legislature regards the system in effect at the University as a retirement or pension system of the University.  Any system of the state university is a system of the state.  Social security coverage for public employees is authorized by chapter 184, Laws of 1951.  Section 1 of that act provides in part:

            "* * * Nothing in this act shall be construed to in any way affect any existing pension or retirement system or plan for any group of state employees or the employees of any political subdivision thereof, nor to allow or authorize the governor or the governing body of any political subdivision, either separately or acting together, to terminate or alter any existing pension or retirement planor to put under the federal social security act any persons now members or protected by any state or local pension or retirement plan or system."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The only procedure by which public employees of this state or its political subdivisions may be brought under the federal social security act is by an agreement entered into by the governor and the federal social security administrators (§ 3a, chapter 184, Laws of 1941).  The language above quoted specifically prohibits the governor from putting under the federal social security act any persons now members or protected by any state or local pension or retirement plan or system.

            In our opinion the retirement plan provided by the regents of the University is a state retirement plan or system, and the governor is not authorized to take any action which will bring any persons who are under it within the federal social security system.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General