Blog

31 Jul 2015
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TRTA Standing Committee Meetings Underway

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is as busy as ever, and already planning for the 85th Texas Legislative Session. During the past week and through August 14, TRTA is hosting its biannual standing committee meetings.

The Legislative Committee features 20 members.
The Legislative Committee features 21 members.
View the list here.

These meetings include important groups such as the Legislative Committee, which is responsible for meeting with legislators and forming an action plan for the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. The Legislative Committee features 20 members, one representing each TRTA district, and a Chairman.

The 21 members volunteer a great deal of their time to meeting with 150 Representatives and 31 Senators across the state, and their lobbying doesn’t just begin and end during a legislative session. A significant portion of TRTA’s success is tied to communicating with legislators during the interim, the time in between regular legislative sessions.

During the Legislative Committee’s July 27-28 meeting, the team recapped the events of the 84th Legislative Session, and began planning strategies to have an even more successful campaign in 2017. Three primary points of focus during the meetings were the TRS-Care crisis, the protection of defined benefit plans and the need for a cost-of-living adjustment for all TRS retirees.

Addressing TRS-Care During the Interim

Bill Barnes is the chairman of the Legislative Committee.
Bill Barnes is the Chairman of the Legislative Committee.

The TRS-Care crisis is still relevant even though TRTA was able to secure $768 million towards the health care program last session. More than 240,000 retired educators rely upon the health care program provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The funding provided by the Texas Legislature will keep TRS-Care benefits and premiums stable for the next two years, but TRTA will need to ask the Legislature for upwards of $1 billion in 2017 to keep the program solvent.

The crux of this issue is based on the funding disparity between active teacher payroll, which is a primary source of income for TRS-Care, and rising healthcare costs, including skyrocketing prescription drug prices. Since active teacher salary is not related to medical expenses and does not increase at the same rate, TRS-Care is in need of a fundamental change in its funding structure.

The Legislative Committee will be busy this year and next educating Senators and Representatives about this important issue, and speaking with a study group formed by the Texas Legislature as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 1940. The members of the group, which is charged with studying ways to improve and sustain TRS-Care, have not yet been named. When that does occur, you can expect an important Inside Lineupdate in your inbox, so keep your eyes peeled!

Fighting For A Cost-of-Living Adjustment

Additionally, the Legislative Committee spoke extensively about the need to provide a cost-of-living increase to TRS annuitants who did not receive one in 2013, and how to best protect defined benefit plans. The Texas Legislature missed an opportunity to provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) during the 84th Legislative Session, and the Legislative Committee will actively pursue a COLA for retirees in 2017.

Protecting Your Defined Benefit Plan

Rueben Saenz is District 1's committee member.
Ruben Saenz is District 1’s committee member.

TRS was recently attacked by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). In an unwarranted attack, James Quintero stated that defined benefit plans “run contrary to sound budgeting principles that stipulate that taxpayer-funded programs should be predictable, viable and not reliant upon gimmicks or market conditions.” While his article was met with little fanfare, these types of attacks can create doubt in the minds of legislators about the viability of our pension plan.

TRTA responded with force in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Legislative Committee is well aware of the dangers and pitfalls associated with groups like TPPF who want to strip you of your hard-earned benefits, and our team will work hard to protect your retirement security.

The Importance of Voting and How You Can Help

The Legislative Committee also discussed the importance of encouraging voter turnout during primary elections. Primary elections are preliminary elections, which determine the field of candidates eligible to be elected. With increased voter turnout at these elections, TRTA can increase its ability to influence policymakers. Texas primary elections begin in March 2016.

The best way to help the Legislative Committee achieve its goal of protecting your benefits is to stay informed. If you haven’t already, find out when your first fall local unit meeting is being held. Contact your local unit president, and let them know that you are excited about participating in your local meetings. Also, be sure to stay connected with TRTA via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The next two years could very well determine the future of TRS-Care and a possible COLA, and your involvement is paramount to TRTA’s success. Thank you for your membership, and if you have a friend or family member who is a retired educator and is not yet a member of TRTA, please encourage them to join us by using our new Join Now website!

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06 Jul 2015
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This Week at TRTA!

Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) leaders and staff are busy this week as we host the District Presidents Leadership Training Conference (DPLTC). The three day event will be held at the Airport Hilton Hotel in Austin July 7-9.

All of TRTA’s twenty district presidents will be in town to receive training from the officers of the TRTA Board of Directors. They will learn more about TRTA’s goals for the interim and how to best communicate them to local unit presidents throughout the state.

District presidents will also elect the officers of the District Presidents Council this week. The council members will begin serving on the TRTA Board of Directors immediately.

On Wednesday, July 8, district presidents will tour the TRTA state office and meet with staff members to learn more about membership processing and communications. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more updates about DPLTC as they happen!

The VOICE Will Arrive Soon!

TRTA’s quarterly news bulletin, The VOICE, will arrive in members’ mailboxes as early as this week! To get a sneak peek, click here!

Please pay special attention to page three, where you can find a full-page fact sheet about HR 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, which repeals the current Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

The WEP is an unfair federal law preventing retired educators from receiving their earned Social Security (SS) benefits. The WEP, which took effect in 1983, provides a means of eliminating the “windfall” of SS benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by SS. Many educators are blindsided by this news, and it can have a significant impact on their financial security.

Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands) introduced HR 711 into Congress earlier this year, but the bill is stuck in the House Ways and Means committee. The bill needs more cosponsors from other states to advance.

HR 711 proposes to reduce the WEP for current and future retirees without impacting the SS trust fund. If passed, HR 711 could increase the lifetime SS benefits of retired teachers by between $20,000 and $32,400.

On average, TRTA members report the WEP reduces their monthly income by $400. HR 711 will reduce the WEP for current retirees by as much as 33 percent. Future retirees will see the WEP’s impact reduced by as much as 50 percent.

Many of the bill’s cosponsors are from Texas, and that shows a great dedication from our members to get traction for this bill. However, we must now expand our reach to Congressmen across the U.S.

Congress is still working in JulyLet’s tell our national leaders we need HR 711 passed now

Please contact your friends, family and colleagues in other states, and ask them to contact their Congressmen and tell them to support HR 711! Feel free to email them a link to page three of The VOICE to provide them with more information.

Thank You

Your support helped us receive $768 million towards TRS-Care during the 84th Texas Legislative Session, but there is still more work to be done. Repealing the WEP is TRTA’s #1 priority, and your help can make all of the difference. Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep 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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26 Jun 2015
0

TRTA Interim Update: Full Steam Ahead!

The regular session of the 84th Texas Legislature has ended well for members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). Governor Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 2 into law, which provides $768 million to fill the TRS-Care funding shortfall.

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) voted earlier this month not to raise premiums on TRS-Care, and TRTA’s expectation is that TRS-Care premiums will remain the same for the upcoming biennium.

Legislative session may be over, but TRTA is busier than ever and gearing up for a strong second half to 2015!

As we look towards the work we must do for the interim, TRTA is ready to address the long-term solvency issues facing the health care program. Members from both the Texas Senate and House will serve on a committee to study options to maintain TRS-Care, and the bulk of their work will be done between now and January 2017.

This committee was established by another bill that was signed into law, Senate Bill 1940. The members of that committee have not yet been appointed. TRTA will continue monitoring the progress of the committee and will report back with new information soon.

TRTA has hosted numerous committee meetings at our state offices throughout June, and will host our District Presidents Leadership Training Conference starting on July 7. Additionally, we have finished production on the latest edition of The VOICE, which will start appearing in your mailboxes within the next couple of weeks.

Our greatest work, however, is pushing for the repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). We need your help as we make the repeal of the WEP a top priority in the 114th Congress!

The WEP is an unfair federal law preventing retired educators from receiving their earned Social Security (SS) benefits. The WEP, which took effect in 1983, provides a means of eliminating the “windfall” of SS benefits received by beneficiaries who also receive a pension based on work not covered by SS. Many educators are blindsided by this news, and it can have a significant impact on their financial security.

Click on the image below to view our exclusive WEP video, featuring Congressman Kevin Brady!

Kevin Brady (R – The Woodlands) introduced HR 711 into Congress earlier this year, but the bill is stuck in the House Ways and Means committee. The bill needs more cosponsors from other states to advance.

HR 711 proposes to reduce the WEP for current and future retirees without impacting the SS trust fund. If passed, HR 711 could increase the lifetime SS benefits of retired teachers by between $20,000 and $32,400.

Many of the bill’s cosponsors are from Texas, and that shows a great dedication from our members to get traction for this bill. However, we must now expand our reach to Congressmen across the U.S. Please contact your friends, family and colleagues in other states, and ask them to contact their Congressmen and tell them to support HR 711!

On average, TRTA members report the WEP reduces their monthly income by $400. HR 711 will reduce the WEP for current retirees by as much as 33 percent. Future retirees will see the WEP’s impact reduced by as much as 50 percent.

Thank You

Your support helped us receive $768 million towards TRS-Care during the 84th Texas Legislative Session, but there is still more work to be done. Repealing the WEP is TRTA’s #1 priority, and your help can make all of the difference. Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep 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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