Blog

25 Mar
0

Senate Passes SB 12

  • Yes, this is TRTA’s third update of the day!
  • This is a very busy week in the Texas Legislature for TRTA and TRS-related issues!
  • Earlier today, Senate State Affairs passed a resolution urging Congress to repeal the GPO and WEP
  • Today, the full Senate body also passed the TRS actuarial soundness bill, SB 12
  • See Tim Lee’s statement about SB 12 in the body of this update!
  • Tomorrow (March 26) at 8:00 a.m., Pensions, Investments and Financial Services hears House Bill 9 (a link to the live webcast will be available online tomorrow morning from this link)
  • Don’t forget to invite your legislators to TRTA Day at the Capitol on April 3!

Today, March 25, the Texas Senate voted on SB 12, the bill filed by Senator Joan Huffman that would make the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund actuarially sound and provide retirees with a one-time supplemental payment.

Huffman’s bill proposes changes that would occur over several years, eventually increasing the state contribution from the current 6.8 percent to 8.25 percent by fiscal year 2024. This would incur an ongoing cost, but it would be shared among all contributors. The bill also proposes that the school district contribution rise from 1.5 percent to 2 percent by 2025 and the active employee contribution from 7.7 percent to 8.25 percent by 2024. At present, the bill’s proposed supplemental payment for retirees would be capped at $500.

When laying out the bill, Senator Huffman acknowledged that the Texas House is offering a similar bill, HB 9, that differs in a few ways, adding “but I believe the intent of both chambers is to pass a long-term, cost-efficient plan that fits within the confines of the state budget and works towards eliminating the unfunded liability.”

Senator Jose Menendez
commented on the bill, saying “retirees have not received an increase in benefits since 2013.” Menendez then asked bill author Huffman “with the increase in the allocations to the fund . . . if we put that in the Constitution…would that not allow then if we get approved by the voters to provide for a cost-of-living adjustment?” Huffman responded that funding a COLA can cost up to $6 billion. “For every one percent of COLAS for retirees, you need $1 billion to pay for it.”

Menendez said his concern is that retirees have gone so long without any increase, but their insurance rates keep rising, expressing his hope that more can be done for retirees because “they have been waiting patiently for so long.”

Huffman said HB 9 in the House does provide for a larger supplemental payment and said she will be advocating for the retired teachers and working within the parameters of what the budget allows. Menendez indicated he would like to be part of the conversation as the budget continues to be negotiated between the Senate and House.

Senator Jane Nelson
asked Huffman what would happen if the Legislature did nothing to address the pension fund, which presently has a funding period of 87 years. Huffman responded that “the fund would eventually run out of money and retirees would not receive their pensions.”

Huffman also added that TRS is “in the forever business . . . our investments are long-term . . .we have to look long-term how are we going to protect these individuals who choose that profession,” adding that educators “want some certainty” about their retirement benefits.

Senator Nelson added that the Senate is “committed to using money out of our Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF),” and that using these funds allows the Legislature to come up with a more permanent funding solution by bringing the pension fund to actuarial soundness immediately.

Huffman concurred adding that “we get to 29 years and we pay off totally by 2049,” meaning that passing the bill reduces the TRS pension fund’s funding period from 87 years to 29 years immediately and that all of the fund’s unfunded liability will be paid off by 2049. As our members may know, by state law, the Legislature cannot approve a cost-of-living increase for retirees unless the system can pay off its liabilities within 31 years or less.

Senator Nelson added that legislators “care about our retired teachers, we hear them, we get why they’re worried.”

SB 12 passed unanimously out of the Senate with a vote of 31 ayes and zero nays and will now be sent to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.

More to Come on Making TRS Actuarially Sound

TRTA knows Senator Huffman has been working with Representative Greg Bonnen (R – League City) in the Texas House to introduce legislation that would shore up the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund and provide some kind of benefit increase to retirees.

Bonnen’s bill, HB 9, also proposes to make the TRS pension fund actuarially sound and provide a supplemental payment to retired educators. HB 9 is on the schedule tomorrow, March 26, at 8:00 a.m. for the House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee. A live webcast of the meeting will be available from this link tomorrow morning.

As many TRTA members know, legislation can be fluid during a legislative session, undergoing multiple versions before a final bill is passed. At the moment, SB 12 and HB 9 differ on a few elements, including the amount of the proposed one-time supplemental payment for retirees. However, both bills are working toward the vital and necessary step to make the pension fund sound enough to provide a much-needed benefit increase for retirees.

TRTA is committed to working through this process with both the Senate and House. The House version of pension funding reform puts more of that cost burden on the state and offers a larger supplemental payment to TRS retirees.

Statement from TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee

TRTA is very pleased to see the Texas Senate take action on a funding plan that ensures the long-term solvency of the TRS pension fund. SB 12 would immediately improve the TRS pension fund’s long-term sustainability by increasing funding to the system. It would also provide retirees some financial help.

TRS retirees really need a permanent boost in their pension benefits, but any permanent cost-of-living increase is only possible if the Legislature passes a comprehensive funding plan for TRS. The vote in the Senate today and the work being done in the Legislature this session proves that our state is determined to ensure retirement security for our retired and active school employees.

TRTA supports raising the base funding for both the TRS pension plan the and TRS-Care health insurance program. TRTA also supports helping TRS retirees with a meaningful benefit increase this session.

The work being done this session must help our current retirees, as their health care premiums and other costs are going up. A lack of pension increases means many retirees can barely make ends meet. Texas can and should do more to help our retired school employees!

TRTA supports both SB 12 and HB 9 and is actively working with elected officials to help all TRS members.

We will continue to keep you updated on this very busy week of legislative activity. All of the activity we are seeing is very positive and is moving your pension fund in a direction that provides long-term stability for all current and future TRS retirees.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here.

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

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25 Mar
0

Senate State Affairs Passes Resolution Urging Congress to Repeal GPO, WEP

Today, March 25, 2019, the Senate State Affairs Committee passed a resolution urging Congress to repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) of the Social Security Act.

The resolution SCR 5, written by Senator Joan Huffman, states that “although these provisions were intended to curtail the payment of windfall benefits to highly paid government employees, in practice they have had and continue to have devastating consequences for low-income employees who worked for many years as public servants.”

As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may know, the GPO and WEP are federal provisions that drastically reduce and sometimes even eliminate the earned Social Security benefits for millions of public employee retirees and most retired Texas public school employees. 96% of school employees in Texas do not pay in to the program.

Though the Texas Legislature cannot pass legislation to modify or repeal these provisions, they have passed this resolution urging Congress to address the unfair GPO and WEP as they are “punitive and discriminatory” and “target hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public servants.”

The resolution also states that the “vast majority of Texas school employees participate in the state’s teacher retirement system and therefore are not required to and do not participate in the Social Security system” and that “many Texas teachers and other public school employees nonetheless have earned Social Security benefits on their own behalf through other employment.”

Senator Joan Huffman said that the effect of GPO and WEP on Texans is “more acute” and that “these provisions cause veteran teachers to retire prematurely and discourage qualified individuals from entering the teaching profession at precisely the time that Texas and the nation face a severe shortage of highly qualified educators.”

She also stated that GPO and WEP “cause tens of thousands of government retirees to experience a diminished quality of life or be forced to return to work to make up for the effects of these provisions.”

Huffman continued “we are limited in what we can do but we can ask the President and Congress to please take a look at this” and expressed that it’s important for Texas to take the initiative in urging Congress to address these provisions.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of SCR 5, saying “we have supported for many years the repeal of the GPO and WEP.” Although the Legislature may be limited in what can be done to address these issues, Tim said “passing this will help influence what we do on the hill to get these issues resolved.”

Tim also said that fourteen state teacher retirement systems across the nation are affected by these provisions, but that “every state in the nation has some public workers affected by the GPO and the WEP.”

TRTA continues to work with stakeholders from across the nation and with congressmen in Washington, D.C. to address these issues. Many TRTA members are aware that Congressman Kevin Brady (R – the Woodlands, Texas) dedicated his time as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to address modification of the WEP. Brady is no longer Chairman of this committee; however, his co-sponsor for past WEP bills, Congressman Richie Neal (D – Massachusetts), is now the Chairman and continues to keep focus on this vital issue.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here.

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

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25 Mar
0

TRTA Convention and Day at the Capitol Next Week!

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is finalizing details for its 66th Annual Convention to be held in Austin April 1—2, 2019. Nearly 1000 retirees are registered for the event already, which is taking place at the Hilton Austin on 500 E. 4th Street. Convention attendees and many other retirees and pre-retirees are also gearing up for a busy day of grassroots advocacy at the Texas Capitol on April 3!

This year’s convention theme, “Connecting the Dots to TRTA’s Success,” is the perfect sentiment that matches TRTA’s drive to succeed during this challenging legislative session in the Texas capital city! Early registration for the convention is now closed. Late (on-site) registration will begin on Monday, April 1 at 10:00 a.m. You may view the convention’s schedule of events by clicking here. A list of training sessions and times is also available online here.

Legislation is always a key focus of our annual conventions, and this year our members are excited to learn more about legislation filed this session to make the TRS pension fund actuarially sound and provide retirees with some financial relief.

During the Legislative Luncheon being held on April 2, members will hear from TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee, Representative Mary Gonzalez, Representative Greg Bonnen, TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie, and other legislators about what potential solutions are on the table and how it will affect retirees.

Members will also be able to attend a special legislative pep rally that occurs after the House of Delegates on April 2. Legislative Coordinator Tonna Duke and the Austin legislative team will provide updates on the 86th Legislative Session, including what is happening with bills such as HB 9 and SB 12 and the state’s budget bills. Ms. Duke will share techniques and materials to help members advocate during TRTA Day at the Capitol on April 3.

Day at the Capitol, which is open to all convention attendees as well as any member or friend who wishes to join us, will occur on Wednesday, April 3! TRTA is expecting nearly 2000 attendees for this day of grassroots lobbying. Attendees will receive a bag and materials, including a special #RaisetheBase bracelet to wear while supplies last.

Please be sure to share our press release about convention and Day at the Capitol with your fellow retirees and local media outlets.

Please also pay close attention to the weather forecast. Recent forecasts have indicated there could be rain and heavy thunderstorms in the Austin area the week of April 1. Be sure to pack an umbrella!

For any questions about your registration or delegate certification, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650 or email us at membership@trta.org. We look forward to seeing you in Austin soon!


The March is On to #RAISETHEBASE for the Pension Fund and TRS-Care!

March is the most crucial month for legislative action on issues that impact you and your fellow public education retirees. TRTA is moving full steam ahead and we need your help! March is the month that will make all the difference in our legislative agenda!

The Legislature is moving at a rapid pace, finalizing budget discussions, hearing bills in committee, having heated floor session debates, and we need them to be THINKING ABOUT YOU while they are doing the work of Texas!

TRTA Needs Your Help!

1.            Call Your Legislators
Use our toll-free hotline 1.888.674.3788. Let’s make 25,000 phone calls in March! Make regular, once-weekly phone calls to your elected officials asking them to “Raise the Base Funding for the Pension Fund and TRS-Care!”

2.            Email Your Legislators
Email your elected officials! TRTA members have sent thousands of emails so far this session. Let’s send 50,000 emails this month!

3.            RSVP to TRTA Day at the Capitol
Make a plan to join us at Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 3!


Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here.

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

Read More