Blog

04 Aug
0

Election News: Special Election in Senate District 4 Tomorrow!

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) who reside in Texas Senate District 4 need to VOTE during tomorrow’s special runoff election!

You may recall that a special election for Texas Senate District 4 was held on Saturday, May 10 to fill the seat being vacated by Senator Tommy Williams. Senator Williams served a vital role in the Senate, most recently as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. This special election was held because Senator Williams will vacate his seat before his term expires in 2016.

Four candidates were vying for the position, but none received 50% of the vote. A runoff election between candidates Brandon Creighton and Steve Toth will now take place.

The runoff will tomorrow, Tuesday, August 5. To determine your Texas Senate District, please visit this link.

Remember, very few voters turn out for special elections. YOUR VOTE MATTERS! Even a handful of votes can sway the results of a special election. If you are not sure where to vote, contact your County Voter Registrar.

Special Election Set for Texas Senate District 28

Governor Perry has scheduled the special election for the vacant District 28 State Senate seat for September 9, 2014. Senator Robert Duncan stepped down from this role after accepting the position of Chancellor at Texas Tech University.

Many of our members are familiar with Senator Duncan, who worked closely with TRTA to formulate legislation to benefit Texas public education retirees throughout his tenure. Most recently, Senator Duncan co-authored Senate Bill 1458, passed in 2013 during the 83rd Legislative Session. SB 1458 provided the first permanent cost-of-living increase for TRS retirees since 2001 and made the pension fund actuarially sound.

Senator Duncan’s service to Texas continues to provide value for both current and future retirees.

If you live in Texas Senate District 28, be sure to get out and VOTE on September 9!

Currently, Texas House District 83 Representative Charles Perry, former Texas Tech Vice Chancellor Jodey Arrington and Sweetwater Mayor Greg Wortham are vying to fill the seat. Read more about the candidates here.

Thank You!

TRTA continues to be busy this summer, conducting state committee meetings and planning ahead for the 84th Legislative Session. Next week, the State Legislative Committee meets in Austin August 13 and 14. Committee members will discuss topics such as messaging about TRS-Care with election candidates, among other issues.

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! Remember, you are a valued member of our organization, and your vote is valuable! Use your power and vote! If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, contact us at 1.800.880.1650.

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18 Jul
0

TRTA Attacked, Time to Set the Record Straight

TRTA Members Being Called to Action!
Recently, a blog post written by Empower Texans (a conservative think tank well known for its political activism) regarding the TRS-Care retiree health insurance funding crisis portrayed the fund’s shortfall as a battle between political factions, and misrepresented several key facts in the ongoing quest to adequately fund the program.
The blog accused Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) of agreeing “with the big spenders,” and deciding that “state money to fund video game production and subsidize billion-dollar blockbuster movies took priority over healthcare for retired teachers.”
This organization’s blog post focused on the non-passage of several amendments presented in 2013 to defund other state programs, but they FAILED TO MENTION THE “KEY” PIECE OF LEGISLATION that was negotiated for months, which offered far more significant long-term financial benefits to TRS-Care—Senate Bill 1458. Senate Bill 1458 passed both houses of the Texas Legislature unanimously, without a single dissenting vote.
The TRS-Care funding crisis is not unexpected. It is a direct result of TRS-Care’s funding stream being based on active educator payroll instead of medical trends and cost drivers. This has been an issue for TRS-Care for many years, and this is not the first time that the Legislature has had to reassess the funding structure. In 2005, changes made to TRS-Care included the addition of contributions from school districts, for example.
The Texas Legislature made the pension fund a priority in 2013. During the 83rd Legislative Session, TRTA met with all elected officials, Republicans and Democrats, and all active educator groups to create Senate Bill 1458. As a result of our efforts and those of the legislators who helped us, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension plan is the best in the state and one of the best funded in the nation. TRS is now actuarially sound and was able to provide the first permanent cost-of-living increase for 200,000 members since 2001. The system, which faced shortfall in the multi-billions, is now nearly $130 billion strong, and can pay for the pension benefits of all of its 1,300,000 participants.
TRS-Care was also impacted financially by Senate Bill 1458. The passage included the following changes to the program:
  • Requires a future retiree to meet the Rule of 80 with a minimum age 62 in order to participate in TRS-Care 2 or 3;
  • Any active member who retirees prior to age 62 will have access to TRS-Care 1 and will be able to join TRS-Care 2 or 3 at age 62; and
  • This TRS-Care provision grandfathers any current active member who meets the Rule of 70 (combination of years of service and age equal 70 or more) or who has at least 25 years of service as of September 1, 2014.
As TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie testified last week during the joint hearing of the House Appropriations and Pensions Committees, those changes will impact the financial health of TRS-Care for the long-term.
In the short-term, TRTA needs legislative champions who are sincere about helping us address the impending $875 million shortfall that will hit TRS-Care in the 2016-17 biennium.
Just as the Texas Legislature prioritized the TRS pension fund in 2013, they must now prioritize the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program.
We are asking our legislators to:
  • Take a firm position on fully funding TRS-Care now and in the future;
  • Ensure that current TRS-Care participants have affordable, accessible health care throughout their retirement years;
  • Provide the funding plan necessary to ensure TRS-Care is accessible upon retirement to current active educators who pay in a portion of their salary to help fund the program; and
  • Reject any attempts by outside groups to hijack this issue and play politics with retired school employees’ health care.
As TRTA works with the Legislature, active educator groups and any organization that wants to help find the funding necessary for TRS-Care, we WILL develop a solution that does not place the entire burden of resolving the nearly $1 billion shortfall on the backs of retirees with fixed incomes!
TRTA is YOU!
TRTA is the ONLY group in Texas exclusively dedicated to protecting the retirement benefits of all current and future public education retirees in the state. For over 60 years, TRTA has been working to protect what our retirees have earned. Our charitable partner, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation, has given thousands of dollars to help retirees in financial crises and thousands more to current public school teachers and future educators for classroom programs and scholarships.
TRTA has NO HIDDEN AGENDA and will work only for the best interests of our members and every retiree and pre-retiree in Texas. Anyone who believes in TRTA’s mission to promote and develop good public policy should stand up for us and REJECT THIS ATTACK on our 80,000 members. TRTA does not have a political action committee. TRTA does not back candidates for office financially, and TRTA does not “score” legislators on their votes!
Our ONLY interest is in creating the best outcome for all retirees and future retirees who have paid into both TRS and the TRS-Care program their entire careers and deserve to receive what they have earned.
TRTA is NOT an attack group. Our members are educated and dedicated public servants. As an organization, we support legislators and their efforts. Our members know that the way to achieve success through the legislative process is to find common ground. We meet in good faith to educate legislators on the issues, and offer real solutions to very challenging circumstances in an honest and ethical way.
Our public education RETIREES ARE NOT PAWNS in a political game. Resolving the TRS-Care funding crisis will not be done through tricky catchphrases and political spin. Our strength as an organization is not rhetoric, nor is it money. Our strength is our ability to represent our issues factually, and to create and support legislative action that is in the best interests of current and future retirees — as well as Texas taxpayers.
Making policy decisions that impact retired school employees is a matter of state business; but messing with retirees to score political points is more than bad form — it is detrimental to any public servant’s political career.
TRTA wants to work in good faith with ALL elected officials. We invite any and all Texas legislators to share their views on the TRS-Care crisis and we pledge to continue our efforts to provide factual data and real ideas for solving the TRS-Care funding issue.
Time to Take Action!
TRTA is 80,000 members strong. Our members dedicated their lives to Texas school children, and they believe in the legacy of Texas public education. Now, our members’ efforts to protect their own benefits are being attacked.
TRTA does not know why any elected official or office seeker would agree with a line of attack against TRTA and its members. What outcome can be achieved by attacking our retired educators?
TRTA believes that legislators of all political ideology can see past the rhetoric of this attack on our members and this association. Our members can help set the record straight and ensure legislators that we are ready, willing, and able to resolve the TRS-Care crisis!
Members, this is an immediate call to action. Let’s do what we always have done best: EDUCATE. This is your life’s work!
Now is the time to organize and get involved. Many elected officials are in their home districts and are open to hearing from their constituents about the work they will need to do next session.
Don’t wait to start advocating for yourself and your fellow retirees!Contact your local TRTA leadership and join a local unit and their efforts to meet with and talk to legislators.
You can also click here to send an email. We want our elected officials to know:
  • TRTA will work with them;
  • When we work together we SOLVE problems;
  • TRTA is a problem-solving group and our members expect us to find areas of common ground with all elected officials in the spirit of cooperation to protect and improve the benefits of all current and future TRS retirees;
  • TRTA represents the interests of public education retirees and those efforts have helped public education retirees for over 60 years!
Concluding Comments
This one blog post demonstrates that there are many outside interests that do not align with protecting retiree benefits. TRTA members must be vigilant. There are elections still to come. Your power is in your vote. Make sure the person you send to Austin knows you will not be bullied and that attacking the organization that you formed, support and believe in represents your interests!
There are 1.3 million Texans who are a part of TRS. We have the power. Let’s make sure we use it to ensure the integrity of our TRS benefits—you have earned it!
If you are a TRTA member, you will soon receive the next issue of the The VOICE. We will feature a four-page advocacy guide along with step-by-step instructions on how you can get involved. Be ready to join our TRTA efforts, plan a meeting with a legislator, share this information with your fellow TRS retirees and work with our friends in the active school community. You can also download the guide here.
The negative message in the attack blog is the kind of rhetoric that your elected official WILL hear before and during the 84th Legislative Session. Armed with the FACTS, TRTA will act to protect the interests of current and future education retirees. Are YOU going to take action?
We are ready to fight for TRS-Care. Our members are ready to PROTECT WHAT THEY HAVE EARNED — boots on the ground!
Thank You!
Thank you for being a member of TRTA. If you are not a member and would like to join, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.
Remember, we need you! While this may sound like just a nice way to end an article, we hope that you can see by this attack on TRTA that we really do NEED you!
Contact us at info@trta.org with your questions, thoughts, or concerns.

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11 Jul
0

House Appropriations and Pensions Committees Meet to Discuss TRS-Care

TRTA Calls for Higher State Appropriation to Avert Drastic and Unaffordable Premium Increases for TRS-Care participants

Yesterday, July 10, the Texas House Appropriations and Pensions Committees met to review the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program, among other items.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) was invited to provide expert testimony as part of a panel of guests that included the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and the Austin Independent School District (AISD), and many of our colleagues from the active school employee organizations. Tim Lee, Executive Director of TRTA, participated on the panel and spoke about the impact that the impending financial shortfall to the program could have on retirees across the state.

TRTA emphasized the importance of working with the Legislature to develop a solution that does not place the entire burden of resolving the nearly $1 billion shortfall on the backs of retirees with fixed incomes. Several TRTA members and TRS retirees were in attendance, many of whom were attending the TRTA District Presidents Leadership Training Conference. The hearing was a great opportunity for TRTA’s District Presidents to learn about grassroots advocacy and receive feedback from elected officials about their commitment to TRTA’s issues.

The Executive Director of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), Brian Guthrie, provided an update on the program to a panel of legislators that included retiring Pensions Committee Chairman Representative Bill Callegari and Appropriations Chairman John Otto. Mr. Guthrie reminded the legislators that TRS-Care’s funding stream is based on active educator payroll and is not aligned with medical trends and cost drivers.

Mr. Guthrie also stated that Texas statute provides that the state will pay no more than 55% of the total cost of the program and that the state currently contributes approximately 23%. Retirees, who by law must pay for at least 30% of the total cost of TRS-Care, carry the heaviest burden at nearly 38%. Active educators are contributing about 15% of the total cost, while school districts add another 13%. Some federal dollars in the form of subsidies (primarily for Medicare Part D) account for 11%.

In January 2013, TRS started a Medicare Advantage program which helped to delay the looming financial crisis. Originally, the shortfall was expected to hit by the 2014-2015 biennium. This delayed the inevitable, and TRS plans to ask the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) for an exceptional budget item of $875 million in its appropriations request for the coming session. This is in addition to the state contribution of 1.0% of active educator payroll.

TRS also reviewed the nine options being considered in the TRS-Care Sustainability Study. TRTA reviewed the nine options in a series of Inside Line articles over the past couple of months. You may review the articles on our website at www.trta.org under Legislative Updates. Mr. Guthrie indicated that TRS plans to eliminate Option 9 from the study.

During Tim Lee’s testimony, he expressed TRTA’s belief that the current funding from the state for retiree health care is not adequate. In 2013, the state paid $241.6 million for about 190,000 retirees and surviving spouses into TRS-Care. This is equivalent to $106 per month per participant.

TRTA also expressed that TRS is doing a good job of managing TRS-Care. TRS always looks for ways to save money and still provide adequate health care coverage for TRS-Care participants. While TRTA will continue to work with TRS to reduce health care costs, the bottom line is that additional funding is needed!

TRTA knows that tough choices will have to be made. That being said, TRTA believes that a significant increase in state funding is needed to begin the process of saving TRS-Care. Reductions in health care benefits are not acceptable for a group of individuals who spent their lives educating our children and whose medical needs continue to increase.

TRTA wholeheartedly supports action by the Legislature to provide affordable and accessible health care benefits for all active and retired educators. TRTA will continue working with the Appropriations and Pensions Committees and the Legislature to make TRS-Care sustainable.

TRTA knows that many legislators want to help avert a major crisis with TRS-Care. We will work together to solve this problem, but it will require a tremendous effort by all TRS retirees. There is no way for us to predict the outcome, but doubling premiums or reducing benefits dramatically are not acceptable!

We need your help. If you are a TRTA member, you will soon receive the next issue of the The VOICE. We will feature a four-page advocacy guide along with step-by-step instructions on how you can get involved. Be ready to join our TRTA efforts, plan a meeting with a legislator, share this information with your fellow TRS retirees and work with our friends in the active school community.

There are 1.3 million Texans who are a part of TRS. We have the power. Let’s make sure we use it to ensure the integrity of our TRS benefits—you’ve earned it!

Thank You!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA. If you are not a member and would like to join, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650. Remember, we need you!

Your $35 in annual dues enables us take a knowledgeable, expert team to the Capitol to defend your retirement benefits. For less than $3 per month, TRTA manages a statewide association focused on you, your retirement, and protecting and improving what you have earned. We truly appreciate every member and we value your support.
Contact us at info@trta.org with your questions, thoughts, or concerns.

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