Blog

24 Mar 2016
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New TRTATV Episode: ‪HR 711 Update and TRS-Care Meeting Upcoming

The Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) lobbying efforts are being felt at both a state and national level. On Tuesday, Tim Lee, TRTA’s Executive Director, and Ronnie Jung, TRTA’s Pensions Consultant, attended the U.S. House of Ways and Means Committee hearing on The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (HR 711).

HR 711 proposes to repeal the current Windfall Elimination Provision and replace it with a newer, fairer formula. Lee testified about the importance of changing the Windfall Elimination Provision, which deprives millions of retired educators, firefighters, police officers and other public workers of their Social Security earnings.

Lee believes that the need to pass HR 711 is an urgent matter. He would like to see Congress accomplish that goal before the end of 2016. To learn more about the meeting read our full recap here. If you would like to know how to get involved, click here.

TRS-Care Meeting Upcoming and TRTA Room Announced

TRS-Care is a health insurance program provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). More than 240,000 retired educators rely upon the system for their health insurance. However, TRS-Care is facing a continuing funding crisis. By 2017, TRS-Care could see a funding shortfall of $1.5 billion. If nothing is done, retirees under the health insurance program could see their premiums skyrocket.

March 30 is the first meeting of the TRS-Care study group. We are encouraging TRTA members to attend. The meeting will take place in E1.028. To RSVP, please email us at info@trta.org. We will have a room and will be providing lunch to those attending the meeting. Our room number is E2.002A, and it will be open from 11AM to 3:30PM.

TRTA is offering a $35 stipend to TRTA members who carpool together. Parking is available in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 12th and San Jacinto streets.

Last year, TRTA successfully persuaded the Texas Legislature to put $768 million into TRS-Care. Your efforts and membership helped make a difference! This funding provided a stopgap to prevent premium increases and benefit reductions for retirees. Nonetheless, Texas legislators were well aware the $768 million did not solve the funding issue for TRS-Care.

TRS-Care’s funding is tied to active teacher payroll. Health care costs are increasing at a much greater rate than teacher payroll, so as these costs grow, the amount of funding in the health insurance program has fallen behind.

Acknowledging that the issue of TRS-Care would require greater effort to solve, the Legislature created a study group to analyze and discuss various options surrounding the program.

The legislative members named to this group are: Senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston) – Co-Chair, Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), and Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls); and Representatives Dan Flynn (R-Canton) – Co-Chair, Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), and Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio).

Thank You

TRTA and its members have the respect of both congressmen and legislators. Your membership is making a difference as we lobby here in Texas and at the U.S. Capitol. We will continue to bring you the latest updates on all issues involving retired educators.

Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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22 Mar 2016
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Ways and Means Committee Members Discuss Future of WEP

The U.S. House of Ways and Means Committee discussed propositions to alter a Social Security provision known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) today. The WEP is an unfair formula that was enacted 1983. It prevents public workers such as educators, firefighters and police officers who pay into state pension plans from receiving their entire sum of Social Security earnings.

For many members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), the WEP has long stood as a barrier to receiving the retirement benefits that they earned through working in other professions that paid into Social Security.

The Ways and Means Committee meeting represented a positive first step towards resolving this long-time inequity. The committee heard testimony from five panelists, including TRTA’s Executive Director Tim Lee, about the history of the WEP, and how Rep. Kevin Brady’s (R-The Woodlands) proposed Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (HR 711) would help restore balance and security to millions of retired workers’ lives.

Congressman Brady began the meeting by expounding on the unfairness of the current, outdated Social Security formula, and explained how his proposed bill would provide fairness to the public workers.

“The (WEP’s) one size fits all approach is unfair,” Brady said. “Our solution takes into account all earnings.”

Social Security’s Chief Actuary, Stephen Goss, was among the witnesses in the meeting. Goss reported that if HR 711 were enacted immediately, 84 percent of retirees impacted by the WEP would receive an additional $77 per month in Social Security benefits.

“The current proposal (HR 711)… would be a more appropriate approach,” Goss concluded.

Tim Lee’s testimony included an appeal to the concern about the future of teaching. Lee stated that without fair and satisfactory compensation packages, many potential teachers would avoid the profession.

Rep. Kevin Kelly of Pennsylvania concurred with Lee’s assessment, and recounted his daughter’s path towards becoming a teacher. His story highlighted her hesitance about the teaching profession due to compensation concerns.

The committee members also discussed a proposal in President Obama’s budget that would mirror very similarly Brady’s proposed bill. However unlike HR 711, Obama’s proposal would take 10 years before going into effect.

Tim Lee urged the committee to consider Brady’s proposal, as the need for many retirees to receive the Social Security benefits is immediate.

Jason Fichtner, a senior research fellow at George Mason University, followed Lee’s statement by saying “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Thank You

Every day TRTA is fighting for its members in both Texas and on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Your membership enables us to fight the good fight. You can learn more about the WEP and how you can get involved here. To read more about the meeting, visit the Ways and Means Committee’s website.

If you haven’t already, be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to us on Youtube.

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11 Mar 2016
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TRS-Care Joint Committee Meeting to Be Held March 30, TRTA Members Encouraged to Attend

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is focused on the upcoming TRS-Care Joint Committee Meeting. As we mentioned in a recent Inside Line, the first meeting of the joint committee is planned for 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 in Room E1.028 (Hearing Room) of the Texas Capitol.

TRTA members are encouraged to attend! Progress on TRS-Care will happen in 2016 and it will happen quickly. TRTA needs your participation in every step of this process!

As our members know, the TRS-Care health insurance program will have a negative fund balance by the end of the current biennium, facing a shortfall even greater than the one experienced in 2015. That shortfall is projected to be $1.5 billion when the next legislative session begins in 2017.

During the 84th Legislative Session in 2015, TRS-Care’s shortfall of $768 million was addressed by House Bill 2’s supplemental funding. As TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie stated during a recent TRS Board of Trustees meeting, “it is unlikely that those sources of revenue will be available again” during the 2017 session.

The select joint committee formed by the Texas Legislature will investigate this issue, meeting during the interim to discuss solutions to the TRS-Care crisis.

The legislative members named to this group are: Senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston) – Co-Chair, Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), and Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls); and Representatives Dan Flynn (R-Canton) – Co-Chair, Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), and Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio).

Important Meeting Details for Attendees

TRTA is making plans to host a gathering of members and legislators at the Capitol, during and after the TRS-Care Joint Committee hearing. More information will be released as soon as plans are finalized. Refreshments and snacks will be provided.

If you are traveling to Austin to attend the hearing, please try to arrive before noon so that you do not miss this great opportunity to visit personally with the legislators who are working to resolve the TRS-Care crisis.

The actual TRS-Care hearing will be held in room E1.028 (Hearing Room), which is located in the Capitol extension on floor E1. Click here for a Capitol Building Guide to assist you in locating the main conference room and the hearing room.

If you are planning to testify, please note that public testimony will be limited to two minutes. Members who wish to provide testimony should consider preparing their comments in advance. If you are interested in providing feedback but do not wish to speak, you may submit written testimony. Please provide 20 copies to the Committee Clerk if you are providing written testimony.

TRTA is offering a $35 stipend to TRTA members who carpool together. Parking is available in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 12th and San Jacinto streets.

Thank You

The reality of systemic changes to TRS-Care must be faced head on. It is possible that your premiums may increase or your benefits may change, or both! TRS-Care is a top priority for TRTA as we head full steam towards 2017. Please continue to stay vigilant and alert!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

Protecting your retirement benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation makes all the difference! Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to stay informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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