Blog

06 May
0

TRTA Members Expect Action: More Funding, More Commitment, Long-Term Solutions

Key Facts in this Update:

  • TRTA and Senate Democrats are NOT working against each other.
  • TRTA’s 60 year advocacy program is non-partisan and we work with all interests with great success for retirees.
  • TRTA is NOT working against active educators.
  • Many active employee/employer groups stand with TRTA in support of SB 1458 to ensure the fund’s long-term solvency and benefit protection.
  • TRTA wants more state contribution to the fund and every retiree to benefit from these actions.
  • Delay for the purpose of improving this legislation is understood, but delay to kill SB 1458 is a short-term tactic with long-term consequences.
  • The time for action is NOW!
  • TRTA’s phone call advocacy expanded to ALL senators: “We need help, we expect action! Please support SB 1458 for action this week!” 1.888.674.3788

Last week, TRTA members unleashed a three-day email and phone barrage on the Texas Senate. In all, over 40,000 emails were sent.The calls into Senate offices were described as “heavy.” YOU helped send a loud, strong message to the Texas Senate. TRS retirees need help and we need it now.

As we prepare for the week ahead with the knowledge that SB 1458 was delayed twice, I wanted to address a few questions I received this weekend. I believe this will help you better represent TRTA’s position as we continue our member-driven advocacy in the expectation that action is forthcoming.

Why Are the Senate Democrats Working Against Us? What About Active Teachers, Do They Know We Are Not Working Against Them?

The Senate Democrats are NOT working against TRTA! These members are very eager to work on legislation that will help all retired public school employees. TRTA is in regular communication with these long-time pro-TRTA legislators. They have met with TRTA volunteers and staff all session to learn about our issues, hear our suggestions, and develop plans on how best to assist.

The same can be said for our Senate Republican friends. TRTA has a 60 year history of working with all political parties, and we have extremely positive results to show for it.

Working on any TRS legislation is complex and touches the lives of many people. The results of any public pension legislation are influenced strongly by budget realities, public policy concerns, and political consequences. We are relying on all of our friends in the Texas Senate—and the House—to know when the time for debate is over and the time for action has come.

Numerous versions of the TRS plan have been worked and reworked. The final details were not crafted fully until early last week. Many Senators like the direction of SB 1458—one that leads to actuarial soundness, more commitment to TRS from all involved, no major cuts to vested employee benefits, some help for retirees, and a clear path for the system to help ALL retirees as quickly as possible.

Others object that the state is not putting enough into the TRS fund (TRTA supports more state contribution for TRS), that too much is being asked of the active employees, or that not enough TRS retirees will be getting a benefit increase (TRTA continues to work to expand this).

Let it also be known that TRTA is NOT working against active educators. Many of our members have “generational” educators in their families. Our active school employees do an important job every day, and we want to protect their defined benefit plan for the future.

This is the great legacy of TRTA! People worked to protect the fund when our members were active educators, and now it is our responsibility and privilege to protect it for future generations.

There are some active employee organizations that have different objectives for this legislation. TRTA understands their positions. Likewise, they know that TRTA is working to pass a bill to help as many TRS retirees as possible right now.

We are working every day with all of our friends in the Legislature and in the active employee community to address these issues.

But time is not on our side. Endless debate will end any chance that retirees will see help this session.

Doing nothing puts all active employee future benefits at risk due to pending pension reporting changes and the reality of a $1 billion TRS-Care health insurance crisis next session.

The time for action is NOW! Delay for the purpose of improving this legislation is understood, but delay to kill SB 1458 is a short-term tactic with long-term consequences.

We MUST take the opportunity to improve TRS.

  • We can help over 102,000 retirees this year.
  • We can ensure better long-term funding that makes real pension increases possible for all other TRS retirees.

Doing nothing means the fund’s actuarial condition only worsens, that the system will never be funded, and the ability to help TRS retirees will be very challenging.

The Week Ahead

TRTA members are doing a great job delivering a consistent, strong message. In addition to your phone calls and emails, we have sent a personal letter to every Senator asking for their favorable vote on SB 1458. TRTA staff will continue to visit every Senate office this week.

Please continue to educate legislators on SB 1458. This bill is vital to the long-term protection of the TRS fund. It will help 102,000 retirees. Its impact will continue to improve TRS for years to come and make it possible to help all TRS retirees.

As the week unfolds, we should contact ALL Texas Senators. Let’s expand our advocacy efforts to ensure that every Senator knows helping TRS is NOT a partisan issue. It’s just the right thing to do!

Every Senator needs to know that we want to see action as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your help. Please use the TRTA Legislator Hotline to contact Senate members this week. That number is 1.888.674.3788.

Be sure to also email your Senator through the advocacy campaign (click here).

Feel free to click on this link again as we will add new email messages to this campaign throughout the day and the rest of the week!

For our out-of-state TRTA members, we know emailing is a challenge. You can use the toll-free TRTA Call Your Legislator Hotline(1.888.674.3788) and let every Senator know that you are drawing a TRS annuity and that people you know and talk to regularly still live and VOTE in Texas!

Again, you are so appreciated. There is no more powerful advocacy group in the state than our TRTA members!

If you are not a member, please consider joining today! Contact our office at1.800.880.1650 for membership information.

Read More
03 May
0

TRTA Must Not Stop!

Bill’s Supporters Grow (TRTA, ATPE, TASA all support SB 1458!)

Click Here to Send an Email Supporting SB 1458/Phone Calls Needed!! Contact Information Provided Below!!!

Today may be a critical day for the long-term health of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund, and could set TRS on a path to providing raises to its retirees in desperate need. Call the senators listed at the end of this message. Call your fellow TRTA members, ask them to help get involved. Now is the time to make a major push!

SB 1458 has been improved to ensure:

  • Long-term actuarial soundness for TRS;
  • Increased contributions from all participants including the state, active members, and school districts;
  • All contribution levels are linked, meaning that the state will have a hard time lowering its commitment to the fund in the future;
  • Provides a cost of living increase for TRS retirees who retired 1999 or before;
  • These are people who retired prior to the full implementation of the Rule of 80;
  • The Rule of 80 was adopted in 1997, but its real impact began a few years later. Many of the retirees in this population (1999 and before) were long-term employees that worked for much less money and receive small pensions. They may have taken a significant cut in their retirement because they had no Rule of 80 to assist them in an early retirement situation;
  • Over 102,000 retirees will benefit this session;
  • Additional raises will be possible as the system’s actuarial condition improves and can do so without relying solely on stock market gains;
  • Under existing statute, NO RETIREE WILL GET ANY COST-OF-LIVING INCREASE SO LONG AS THE SYSTEM IS NOT ABLE TO AMORTIZE ITS UNFUNDED LIABILITY WITHIN 31 YEARS (the statute TRS must meet to be considered actuarially sound and provide COLAs);
  • THIS IS THE ONLY LEGISLATION IN OVER 15 YEARS THAT HAS BROUGHT ALL THESE COMPONENTS TOGETHER IN SUCH A WAY TO MAKE THE FUND SOUND NOW;
  • Some groups oppose this bill for various reasons, but everyone needs to know that this legislation grandfathers every vested employee from any pension cuts!

If these provisions are not passed, will active employees benefit if the fund’s condition continues to deteriorate?

The Legislature’s track record has been to cut and make drastic changes during the tough times. We cannot “wait-and-see” if there is better deal to be made four or five years from now. Too much is at stake for our active employees and retirees.

The very existence of our defined benefit plan may be the price we pay if we do not give full support to this bill.

TRTA does not want to see any cuts for any employees. That’s why TRTA has worked so hard with our friends in the active community and the legislature. SB 1458 protects the earned benefits of all vested employees and gives another year for current employees to fully vest (five years of service).

Non-vested employees will not retire for at least two decades or more. TRTA, our friends in the active community and the Legislature will have additional opportunities to improve their retirement benefits over the next two decades.

Now is the time for action! The Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), and the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) SUPPORT SB 1458.

If you support preserving the defined benefit plan for all current active employees, providing immediate help to lower-income retirees in desperate need, and putting TRS on a path to help all retirees in future sessions, THIS IS A BILL TO SUPPORT.

LEGISLATORS, DO NOT GO BACK TO YOUR DISTRICT KNOWING YOU COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING TO MAKE THE SYSTEM ACTUARIALLY SOUND AND HELP OVER 100,000 RETIREES IN NEED. PUT TRS ON A LONG-TERM PATH TO HELPING ALL OF ITS MEMBERS!

TRTA members, we are getting help from many other groups and organizations that are looking at the facts and are focused on the big picture: protecting the plan.

YOU are the real muscle behind this bill. While it isn’t perfect, it is very good. Help is possible with this legislation. Without it, our efforts to help current and future retirees will be very challenging.

Please do all in your power to send a strong message to the Senate that this bill MUST pass.

Thank you for all you do. Please continue to call these senators:

 

  • Davis (D-Ft. Worth, Undecided) 512.463.0110/1.888.674.3788;
  • Ellis (D-Houston, Undecided) 512.463.0113/1.888.674.3788;
  • Garcia (D-Houston, Undecided) 512.463.0106/1.888.674.3788;
  • updated Hinojosa (D-McAllen, Undecided) 512.463.0120/1.888.674.3788;
  • Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville, Undecided) 512.463.0127/1.888.674.3788;
  • Rodriguez (D-El Paso, Undecided) 512.463.0129/1.888.674.3788;
  • updated Uresti (D-San Antonio, Undecided) 512.463.0119/1.888.674.3788;
  • updated Van de Putte (D-San Antonio, Undecided) 512.463.0126/1.888.674.3788;
  • Watson (D-Austin, Undecided) 512.463.0114/1.888.674.3788;
  • West (D-Dallas, Undecided) 512.463.0123/1.888.674.3788;
  • updated Zaffirini (D-Laredo, Undecided) 512.463.0121/1.888.674.3788

Editor’s note: These senators are not “against” TRTA or “against” helping TRS retirees. Many of them are our long-time friends and supporters. This is a big bill with lots of impact. Many of these offices just want to know they are doing the right thing. It is our responsibility to educate them in a very positive way that this is the bill that helps protect TRS and gives all retirees hope that we are now on a path to help all TRS retirees!

Read More
03 May
0

Bill Helping TRS and Retirees Delayed Again, Discussions Ongoing

Bill Helping TRS and Retirees Delayed Again, Discussions Ongoing

TRTA Members Described as Powerful and Influential Advocates!

(New email campaign…click here)

Thank you TRTA members! Your advocacy over the last two days has been second to none. While we did not see action on SB 1458 again today, your voice has been heard. I have received numerous calls from Senate members asking questions about this bill and wanting more information. I have been told on SEVERAL occasions that TRTA members are knowledgeable, pleasant, passionate and very effective.

I do not have the words to express our sincere appreciation to you for all of your hard work. You are making a big difference!

The Senate will not be back in session until Monday. TRTA is recommending that everyone send emails over the weekend (click here). Many Senate offices will be closed until then, so feel free to maintain email communications and resume calls next week (let’s all get some rest and be READY FOR NEXT WEEK!!). TRTA will provide an update about advocacy efforts after the weekend with phone numbers and a new email campaign.

As always, TRTA appreciates your ongoing support. We are working to pass legislation that will keep your TRS fund sound and provide retirees with a benefit increase! Thank you for all that you do.

Read More