Blog

01 Mar
0

Update on House Actions–TRS Budget Scenario looking better!

Click here to send an email on TRS funding and supporting TRTA legislative initiatives.
Momentum Building Around Supportive Subcommittee

Chairman John Otto Adds Emphasis to Helping TRS
The 83rd Legislative Session is unfolding quickly, and many elements of the TRTA legislative agenda are moving forward. We are pushing for legislative action on several fronts, including increased appropriations for the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care, and finding a way to help our members who are in great need of a benefit increase.

 

Thousands of TRTA members have drawn attention to this agenda by asking their State Representatives to support HB 1383—a bill authored by Representative Jim Keffer.

 

This push has made more legislators aware of our emphasis on making the TRS pension fund actuarially sound. While this is a multistep process, TRTA received some good news from the House Appropriations subcommittee working on TRS issues. Their deliberations have added about $136 million more into the TRS pension fund! This would increase the TRS appropriation to 6.6% in each year of the biennium. This recommendation is the highest level of funding support that TRS has seen in nearly 20 years!

 

While the suggested appropriation would not make the fund actuarially sound, it does signal a move in the right direction. We still have time this session to try to find additional funds necessary to achieve our goals. Make no mistake, the TRTA legislative team will do everything we can to protect your pension fund and improve your retirement security and benefits.

 

Increased appropriations discussions are very difficult, especially in an environment where so many programs experienced cuts last session. Considering the efforts that other groups have made to give the TRS pension benefit program a bad name, we clearly still have many supporters in the Texas Legislature. TRTA is grateful to Chairman Otto and the entire House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education for their focus on TRS. Now, let’s build this momentum and continue to push for making TRS actuarially sound!

 

An Effort Revived!

As many of you know, TRTA has many friends in the Texas Legislature. Two of those members are State Senator Robert Deuell and Representative Larry Gonzales.
These two members have refilled bills they championed last session. SB 643 and HB 103 are supplemental payment bills that would authorize TRS to make an extra benefit payment to TRS annuitants under certain conditions. We want these bills to gain traction and momentum in the legislative process.

We need your help. Please click the e-advocacy link at the top of this update to send an email on these important issues.
It has been 12 years since our TRS retirees have received a real cost-of-living raise. It has been 5 years since a supplemental payment was issued in 2008. Our retirees are paying almost 300% more for gasoline and over 250% more for ground beef than they did in 2001, the time the last increase went into effect.
These bills would use excess pension fund earnings to support a supplemental payment for TRS annuitants. They would not have an adverse impact on the fund, as they maintain minimum levels of funding for the TRS pension fund. The bills would not guarantee anything more than a one-time additional payment (keeping the overall cost very low for the system).
Again, we need your help. Please use the e-advocacy link above to send an email about these important bills.
Thank You

There has never been any doubt in my mind that the best advocates in Texas are retired public school employees! You are all doing an amazing job of communicating with your legislators. Our members have sent over 10,000 emails to legislators this session, and it’s only the beginning of March!

Our legislative teams have made hundreds of visits and we have learned a great deal. Perhaps one of the most significant lessons we have learned is that nearly every legislator we have talked with supports the TRS defined benefit pension plan! You are doing a great job educating our elected officials about how the fund works. They know that the fund is in good fiscal health (though we are working to make it even better), and that the best bang-for-the-buck for existing and future public school retirees is the defined benefit traditional retirement plan.
Thank you for what you have done to help this session. We still have a long way to go, and TRTA is in no way slowing down its efforts to help you. We are encouraged that many long-time legislative members and even recently elected members are realizing the real value that TRS offers to Texas.
Keep up the good work, and thank you for your strong support. TRTA members are making a big impact!

If you are not a member and want more information about joining our efforts to protect and improve TRS, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650.

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22 Feb
0

TRTA Legislative Update and Action Alert!

Bill Filed to Address TRS Funding

TRTA Champions Retiree Issues (Action Email Alert Provided)

Quick Access Links for Email Campaign (Complete Update Provided Below):
Click here to send an email to your legislator asking for their support on HB 1383!

Please click here to send an email to your legislator asking them to support TRTA efforts to improve funding for TRS retirement programs and help retirees receive a much needed pension increase.

This has been a busy week for TRTA! Last week, we made over 65 legislative visits promoting our legislative agenda. Our priorities include more support for the TRS pension trust fund and TRS-Care retiree health insurance program, as well as the preservation of the TRS defined benefit plan. This week, we have visited over 50 legislative offices. TRTA volunteers and staff are pushing YOUR interests every day that the Legislature is in session!

The great news is that long-time TRTA friend and public education retiree supporter Representative Jim Keffer has filed HB 1383. This bill calls on the Legislature to increase the state contribution to the TRS pension fund from 6.4% per biennium to percentages that support what TRS actuaries say is necessary to help the fund reach actuarial soundness.

HB 1383 requires the state to increase its funding by 0.5% in each year of the coming biennium. That means the current FY 2014 biennium contribution would increase to 6.9% (about a $125 million increase) and to 7.4% in FY 2015 (a $250 million increase).

As all TRTA members know, the TRS pension trust fund is not actuarially sound. The pension fund received more than a 6.0% minimum contribution from the Texas Legislature in only 5 of the last 18 years. This legislation is written with our TRS retirees and all TRS active members in mind. It is an important step that would help get the pension system actuarially sound as quickly as possible.

It also addresses the issues raised by the TRS independent actuaries who assert that the TRS pension trust fund is in relatively good financial condition, and that specific funding adjustments can enhance the TRS pension fund’s overall fiscal health.

Representative Keffer worked diligently with TRTA to develop this legislation. TRTA believes that the Legislature needs to move forward with a plan to make the pension fund actuarially sound to protect future retirees and get our members a much needed pension increase!

 

This plan begins with the recognition that minimum funding levels are not going to solve our challenges. Texas has the lowest contribution of any statewide teacher pension system that does not participate in Social Security, and it has one of the highest overall funding values. However, TRS has an unfunded liability that cannot be amortized in less than 31 years under current funding levels. Until we meet that standard, TRS will not be actuarially sound.

This legislation is a real plan to help make TRS actuarially sound. Representative Keffer is to be commended for working to make a difference NOW!

He cannot do this alone. TRTA must help Representative Keffer get this legislation passed this session. Please support TRTA’s funding initiative with HB 1383!

Click here to send an email to your legislator asking for their support on HB 1383!

House Budget Discussions Ongoing

This bill was introduced on the same day that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education met to talk about TRS funding. The House Appropriations Subcommittee is chaired by long-time TRTA friend Representative John Otto. Chairman Otto received testimony from TRS, TRTA, and other interest groups.

 

TRS testified that the pension fund’s overall value has improved over the last couple of years. The pension fund is much higher than it was during the lows that resulted from the worst moments of the 2008 and 2009 recession. The fund’s low value was around $67 billion just five years ago. TRS reported its fund value now exceeds $114 billion. An official report on the fund’s value will be made next month when TRS takes its actuarial snapshot for the legislative session.

 

While things are better, the fund still is not actuarially sound. TRTA public testimony urged the House budget writers to put more money into the TRS fund, take the steps necessary to make the pension fund actuarially sound, and provide retirees with a much needed pension increase. TRTA also urged them to provide adequate funding for the TRS-Care health insurance program. This vital health care program is facing serious financial shortfalls in the near future. TRTA asserts that the best course of action is to increase healthcare funding NOW.

 

Please click here to send an email to your legislator asking them to support TRTA efforts to improve funding for TRS retirement programs and help retirees receive a much needed pension increase.

 

TRTA Members Making a Difference

Thank you for your support and membership in TRTA. We are so grateful for your work at home to educate legislators about our key issues. TRTA members deserve to know that their efforts have made a tremendous difference on how the Legislature views your retirement fund. We have made hundreds of legislator visits this session, and are constantly told that TRTA members “in the district” have “already been in touch.” There is no other organization whose membership does more to advance their legislative agenda than TRTA!

 

Earlier this week, I was in a legislator’s office with our TRTA Legislative Chairman Bill Barnes. While we were there, two other groups of retirees were meeting with the legislator’s staff about TRTA goals and objectives. These members decided to come to Austin on their own and take the TRTA message directly to their legislator! This cooperative level of advocacy is making your voice heard!

 

Now, we need action. Please take the time to send an email to your legislator asking them to support HB 1383 and push their colleagues to appropriate more money for TRS retirement benefit programs.

 

Thanks again for your hard work. We appreciate your effort and your membership in TRTA. If you are not a member and would like to join, please contact the TRTA office at 1.800.880.1650 for more information.

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08 Feb
0

TRTA Members Take Message Directly to Legislators

Improve TRS Fund and Protect Health Care!

TRTA staff and volunteer members are doing a great job representing you in the Texas Legislature. TRTA is focused on getting our legislative agenda passed this session. Here are some of the key points we focused on this week.

  • TRTA met with 65 legislators in both the Senate and the House, pushing for higher contributions to the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care health insurance program;
  • TRTA is urging the Legislature to increase its contribution to the pension trust fund to no less than 6.9% in FY 2014 and 7.4% in FY 2015;
  • This increased contribution is the first step the Legislature must take to help the fund achieve actuarial soundness;
  • Getting the pension fund back to actuarial soundness ensures the long-term viability of the defined benefit plan, but it is also a requirement to pass a true cost-of-living increase for TRS retirees;
  • TRTA wants the Legislature to increase its contribution to the TRS-Care health insurance program to help pre-fund the benefit plan, which could prevent massive premium increases for public education retirees who have not seen an increase in their base annuity for 12 years.

TRTA is also preparing for committee hearings in the near future. Speaker of the House Joe Straus has named all of the committees. You can see a list of all House committees and their members by clicking here. (Senate committees were named earlier in session. Click here for a list of Senate Committees).

Longtime friend to public education retirees Representative Bill Callegari has been named Chairman of the House Pensions Committee (click here for a complete list of the Pensions Committee members). Chairman Callegari will convene his first Pensions Committee meeting next Monday, February 11 at 2:00 p.m. TRTA will be there to testify.

At least two TRS bills have been assigned to the Pensions committee already. HB 99 by Representative Charles Perry attempts to guarantee funding at least equal to Social Security funding in years that the Legislature may attempt to decrease its contribution to the 6% minimum level. HB 103 by Representative Larry Gonzales is the same bill he filed in the 2011 session, which would allow TRS to provide a supplemental payment to TRS retirees after the fund meets certain conditions.

This bill passed out of the House last session and died in the Senate. Incidentally, if the bill had passed, TRS annuitants would have received a supplemental payment last year under this measure (these bills are not posted for next Monday’s hearing, but TRTA will provide information on when they will be heard in committee).

TRTA is off to a great start. Our membership is working hard to improve TRS and protect our vital retirement programs. Every office we have visited this week commented on hearing from their TRS retirees. Your efforts are having a profound impact. We will continue to work for you every day this legislative session.

We are also reminding legislators that the TRTA Day at the Capitol is March 20. We would love for all of you to attend. Many of our TRTA districts and local units are making travel plans now. If you are not a member of a local unit, we hope you will take this opportunity to learn more about our vast and active local network. Click here to view the websites of TRTA local units across the state.

Thank you for your membership in TRTA. If you are not a member and want more information about joining and being a part of our efforts to protect and improve TRS, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650.

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