30 Mar

TRS-Care Joint Committee Meets as TRTA Hosts Rally at Capitol

“I’m just chock-full of good news today,” joked Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Executive Director Brian Guthrie after eliciting several prolonged sighs from members of the TRS-Care Joint Committee.

The TRS-Care Joint Committee is a sub-committee of the Texas Legislature charged with studying the TRS-Care health insurance program. The committee is comprised of three Senators and three Representatives, who heard testimony for three hours concerning TRS-Care’s financial instability.

The health care program will face a funding shortfall of $1.6 billion by the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year according to Guthrie. Guthrie and the legislators reviewed options to solve this funding crisis. The funding shortfall has been caused by a discrepancy between the amount of money being put into the program, which is tied to active teacher payroll, and rising health care costs.

TRTA members testified about the importance
of TRS-Care to the committee.

To read the TRS presentation, click here. To re-watch the meeting, click here.

More than 200 members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) were present during the meeting, which was standing room only and required an overflow room to be provided.

As TRTA members rallied before the meeting, four legislators came to thank the educators for their public service. Representatives Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio), Dan Flynn (R-Canton), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton) all came to greet the TRTA gathering, and their kind, inspirational words provided an uplifting moment during a day full of long sighs and headshakes.

During the meeting, each legislator was divided on how to approach the conversation of solving the TRS-Care crisis. Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) began the meeting by providing a statement of determination, but halfway through conceded that solving the crisis would require everyone to contribute.

Stephenson however was adamant that retirees should not have to have any cost increases or benefit reductions.

“It should be the burden of the actives and the state,” Stephenson said.

Tim Lee, TRTA’s Executive Director, was the first to provide public testimony. Lee outlined the issues surrounding the program, including the prolonged issue of the program being a “pay-as-you-go strategy.” This current strategy required the state to provide $768 million to keep the program solvent through the current biennium. Though Guthrie would later go on to state that this figure might be short, as the program is only projected to have $24 million in it by Aug. 2017.

“There is no silver bullet or one thing that we can blame,” said Lee. “The bottom line is this: we need more revenue to keep this program solvent.”

Lee noted that the current pay-as-you-go method has almost been as expensive as a pre-funded method. Pre-funding TRS-Care is the best option for its long-term solvency, and it is the method that would be most fair to TRTA members. However, pre-funding is the most expensive option for the Legislature, as it would cost the state a total of $2.7 billion during the 2018-19 biennium and $2.8 billion during the 2020-21 biennium.

Along with TRTA, several other associations testified to the committee. Among those testifying were the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), the Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT), the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) and the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA). Many associations stated that pre-funding the plan was the best solution.

Guthrie ended his testimony by providing his take on the future of TRS-Care.

“Whatever you decide on is putting a Band-Aid on a fundamentally flawed system,” said Guthrie. “Come up with a new model of providing health care.”

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We will continue to follow the TRS-Care Joint Committee’s progress, and provide you many more opportunities to get involved. We truly appreciate the members who were able to make it to the rally and the legislators who attended the rally.

Be sure to like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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29 Mar

MEMBER ALERT: Tomorrow is Primary Election Day in Texas!

Tuesday, March 1 is Super Tuesday in Texas, and thousands of registered voters in Texas still have not voted in the Primary Election!

According to the Texas Tribune, “over the 11-day early voting period, a total of 1,107,607 voters, making up 12.08 percent of registered voters, cast ballots in the 15 counties with the highest number of registered voters. That’s up from the 565,538 who voted early in 2012, but lower than the 1,193,576 who did so in 2008. “

Members, now is the time to rally together with your fellow retirees and any active educators you know to get out and VOTE!

Talk to each other! Local unit leaders, activate your phone trees and ask your members if they have voted. If not, strongly encourage them to make a plan to vote tomorrow. Check with members who you think may need a ride to the polling location and offer to start a carpool!

Polls will be open tomorrow from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Find your polling location by visiting this link. Don’t forget to bring along a valid photo i.d. Encourage your family members, friends, and neighbors to vote too!

As we’ve reported time and again, the primary elections often determine the winners of Texas elections! Many candidates will win their seats at the Texas Legislature uncontested during the November general election.

Elections determine policy outcomes! They are the biggest factor in determining what happens during the Texas Legislative Session.

The Senators and Representatives who are elected during this cycle will have the enormous responsibility of deciding the future of TRS-Care. If nothing is done during the next Legislative Session to TRS-Care, participants in the program could see massive premium increases or changes in benefits, or both!

We must elect officials who see the value in not only the TRS defined benefit plan, but our other valuable retirement benefits as well!

In previously editions of the Inside Line, we have given you a guide to help you find the best candidates in your area. If you are unsure of whom to vote for, use our “Voter Health” series to help you find the best candidate for the job.

We also recommend the following resources to help you conduct research on candidates:

Teach the Vote
Texas Educators Vote
Texas Teachers Vote
Texas Parent PAC
Texas League of Women Voters
Texas Tribune

Thank You

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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28 Mar

Houston WEP Rally and TRS-Care Hearing This Week

Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) is hosting a media event tomorrow to promote the progress on The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (HR 711). HR 711 is a bill that proposes to replace the current Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) with a newer, fairer formula.

The WEP rally will take place Tuesday, March 29 at 10:00 a.m. at the HFD Fire Station #84. The location address is 320 Gears Rd. Houston, Texas, 77067 (near Greens Rd. and 45). Parking is available on the street.

Congressman Brady’s office is encouraging Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) members from the greater Houston-area to attend this event. This is a great opportunity to draw media exposure to the issues surrounding the WEP, which unfairly penalizes public educators for their years of work in the classrooms. To learn more about the WEP and HR 711 visit this page.

Please RSVP for TRS-Care Hearing​

TRTA is preparing for an important meeting this week about the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program. As you may have read in the Inside Line, the hearing will be held this Wednesday, March 30 at 2:30 p.m. in the Texas Capitol in room E1.028.

March 30 will be the first of several meetings of the TRS-Care study group. We are encouraging TRTA members to attend this meeting, as well as all others.

If you plan to attend the hearing this Wednesday, please RSVP at no later than 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 29. TRTA will reserve a room and will provide lunch to those attending the hearing. We will congregate in room E2.002A between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Lunch will be served at noon.

Additionally, the House Pensions Committee and the Senate Committee on Finance are meeting. The House Pensions Committee is meeting at 10:00 a.m. in room E2.028. The Senate Committee on Finance is meeting at 9:30 a.m. in room E1.036. Members who arrive early for the TRS-Care Study Group meeting are also welcome to attend these meetings.

Representative Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) will also join us before the TRS-Care hearing begins to share a few words.

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. More information will be made available the day of the hearing in room E2.002A.

Please note that both the hearing and the meeting room for TRTA are in the Texas Capitol building in the extension. Please review the Capitol Building Guide to help you in locating these rooms.

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.

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 Facebookfollow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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