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26 Apr 2018
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Texas Primary Runoff Races to Watch!

A Letter From TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee:

Dear TRTA members, supporters and friends,

The information you have below is a great explanation of why you should vote and where you can find information about candidates. Many people who see this information may feel incredibly frustrated. Many people just want one simple answer to the statement: “just tell me who to vote for.”

Well, here is the deal: TRTA does not endorse candidates. Even if I personally wanted to answer your question, TRTA does not endorse and I cannot tell who to vote for.

I knew you’d be frustrated when I said that, but before you stop reading, I want to challenge you to ask three people in your area who they are voting for. I am certain you will get an answer to your question! There are some very wealthy and well-connected people who are hoping that you just give up and do not vote. They love that you are frustrated and less interested in these elections.

TRTA truly believes our issues are not partisan. We believe our members are a diverse cross-culture of voters with many personal interests and views, but that protecting and improving their retirement benefits is not defined by partisan politics.

This is where the extremely partisan groups who work only for party “purity” or partisan gains at any cost have so much more bluster than groups like TRTA. While we believe in working with everyone to achieve the best results, the purity and party groups attack anyone who chooses not to agree with them. Most of the time, this negative activity results in ugly campaigning.

Opponents Of Public Education Are Hoping That You Won’t Vote

Unfortunately, many of these people and interest groups want to see your pensions reduced and your health care changed. They would rather take away the promise of future benefits for education employees.

These interest groups and well-connected, politically savvy people are COUNTING on you not to show up at the polls. Their entire strategy seems to be designed around discouraging well-intentioned, hard-working, rock-solid communities from being motivated to vote.

By now, you know that there are many interests that would do much better if pensions, health care, and our schools were privatized. You and your family, friends and colleagues, and school children across the state may not be better off, but the special interests that want to keep you away from the polls will be richer and happier if you don’t vote.

So, while I cannot tell you who to vote for, I will tell you that if you want to make a difference for yourself, if you want to see retired and active educators feared and respected and appreciated as a group, you must vote in EVERY election. Especially runoffs!

Why Does My Vote Matter?

Voting is all that matters right now. Voting is power. We can either claim that power as our own and send people to elected office who want to help us, or we give that power away to people who want to see your benefits put on the table.

There are some VERY tight elections this runoff season. Your vote may be all that is needed to have a friend in office. Sitting in the sidelines allows that friend to be pushed away for someone else who may be less inclined to help retirees.

We need every TRTA member talking about the runoffs. When the runoffs are over, we will need every single TRTA member talking about voting in the General Election in November.

The battles for better healthcare and properly funded pensions are being waged right now! Truthfully, an order to “stand down” never gets signaled. This fight is non-stop, always present and all-consuming. The legislative session is just one piece of this campaign. The real differences on our issues are realized in the ballot box every election cycle. Ground is claimed and defended during every primary, every runoff and every general election.

If you believe our ability to win on the issues that matter most to you are defined by the legislative session, let me assure you that’s only half the battle, and it’s the last half of the battle. The battlefield always begins during the elections process!

What You Can Do

Elections have consequences. If you live in a runoff area, PLEASE make a plan to vote. If you do not know who to vote for, call your local TRTA members and ask them. I am positive someone in your area knows who these candidates are and what they think about our issues. You can click here to find out information about our TRTA local units in your area. Call people and ask who they are voting for and why. I know they will be happy to share their opinions. If you know the candidate that you are voting for, contact your fellow retirees and inform them of the importance of voting for the candidate.

You can also look at all the other resources TRTA is providing from our friends in the active educator community. This information is being provided so you can see what active teacher organizations and other groups friendly to our cause are saying. Some endorse, some do not. These are not TRTA’s comments but are shared so you can have more insight.

While we are providing the information for your benefit, I still believe the best way to get this information is by calling a friend, sending them an email or checking their social media feeds.

Runoffs are about turnout. Very few Texans are registered to vote, far fewer actually show up and do it. Legislative agendas are defined by those who win their elections. Elections are won because people went to the ballot box and voted for someone to represent their interests.

The only question is, what interests will show up at the polls in the upcoming runoffs? Will you be there? If you want TRS-Care and your pension benefits to be a top priority this coming session, go hire the people you want to do the job. Otherwise, you may not like who is working against you and not for you!

If elected officials know they will be held accountable at the voting booths, your concerns will be given more attention during the legislative session. These elections are so close, I have no doubt that your vote will pay dividends for us as we fight for you in the Texas Capitol.

It’s time for action. It’s time to vote!

Sincerely,

Tim Lee

Executive Director

Texas Retired Teachers Association

Texas Primary Runoff Races to Watch!

As the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) recently reported, the Texas Primary Election Runoffs are being held soon, and your vote holds tremendous power at this critical time! Below, TRTA features a list of all races for the Texas Legislature facing a Primary Runoff and lists the candidates competing for the specified party’s nomination. (For a complete list of all Primary Election results for statewide and congressional races, please click here).

If you are not sure what Texas Senate or Texas House district you reside in, please click here to find out.

Please also remember the following:

  • Even if you did not vote in the first round of Primary Elections, you can still vote in the Runoff Election – and it is IMPORTANT that you DO!
  • You can vote in the Republican Runoff as long as you did not vote in the Democrat Primary.
  • You can vote in the Democrat Runoff as long as you did not vote in the Republican Primary.
  • If you did not vote in the first round of Primary Elections, you may vote in either Runoff Election.
  • VOTE-BY-MAIL deadline: The County Clerk must receive applications by Friday, May 11.
  • EARLY VOTING: Monday, May 14 through Friday, May 18 (five days only!) Make a plan now to VOTE EARLY and avoid the long lines on election day.
  • ELECTION DAY for Primary Runoff: Tuesday, May 22 at the precinct where you are registered to vote.

How Do I Determine Who to Vote For?

TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office. However, we encourage you to ask your fellow retirees who they are voting for and why.

TRTA also recommends researching candidates using the following resources:

  • http://www.txparentpac.com/Texas Parent Pac’s website will feature endorsements as they are released in the coming weeks.
  • Candidates Themselves Are the BEST Resource! If you’re not sure where a candidate stands, you should always feel like you can call and ask them! Reach out to candidates through their websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, email, and by phone. Always be courteous and ask them to tell you where they stand on issues affecting Texas public education retirees and education issues in general.
  • https://www.texansforpubliceducation.com/The Texans for Public Education website, and associated Facebook page, ranks candidates as friendly, unfriendly, or neutral regarding education and retirement issues.
  • https://apps.texastribune.org/2018-texas-primary-candidates/The Texas Tribune is a non-profit news publication. This list contains all primary candidates for both parties.
  • Read candidate statements from Gregg Abbott, Andrew White and Mike Collier.
  • http://www.vote411.org/The Texas League of Women Voters site allows you to find your polling place, build a ballot based on where you live and vote, and includes a non-partisan voter guide on every candidate.
  • https://www.teachthevote.org/The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) site is non-partisan, specific to education issues, and allows you to view candidates by legislative district as well as statewide candidates. The site includes voting records and candidate surveys on education issues.

Below, TRTA features a list of all races for the Texas Legislature facing a Primary Runoff and lists the candidates competing for the specified party’s nomination. (For a complete list of all Primary Election results for statewide and congressional races, please click here).

Texas Senate Primary Runoff Races

DISTRICT 17

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
D ✓ Rita Lucido 17,603 48.9%
D ✓ Fran Watson 12,621 35.1
Democratic Primary

Texas House Primary Runoff Races

DISTRICT 4

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
R ✓ Stuart Spitzer 9,376 45.8%
R ✓ Keith Bell 5,367 26.2
Republican Primary

DISTRICT 8

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
R ✓ Cody Harris 8,864 44.9%
R ✓ Thomas McNutt 7,786 39.5
Republican Primary

DISTRICT 13

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
R ✓ Jill Wolfskill 8,874 38.5%
R ✓ Ben Leman 8,349 36.2
Republican Primary

DISTRICT 37

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
D ✓ Rene O. Oliveira Incumbent 3,096 48.4%
D ✓ Alex Dominguez 2,329 36.4
Democratic Primary

DISTRICT 45

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
D ✓ Rebecca Bell-Metereau 5,133 45.4%
D ✓ Erin Zwiener 3,466 30.7
Democratic Primary

DISTRICT 46

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
D ✓ Jose “Chito” Vela 6,209 39.6%
D ✓ Sheryl Cole 6,000 38.2
Democratic Primary

DISTRICT 47

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
D ✓ Vikki Goodwin 5,347 33.6%
D ✓ Elaina Fowler 4,651 29.2
Democratic Primary

DISTRICT 54

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
R ✓ Scott Cosper Incumbent 4,472 44.6%
R ✓ Brad Buckley 4,173 41.6
Republican Primary

DISTRICT 62

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
R ✓ Reggie Smith 7,885 45.8%
R ✓ Brent Lawson 5,916 34.3
Republican Primary

DISTRICT 64

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
D ✓ Mat Pruneda 3,063 41.7%
D ✓ Andrew Morris 2,842 38.7
Democratic Primary

DISTRICT 107

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
R ✓ Deanna Maria Metzger 3,413 45.3%
R ✓ Joe Ruzicka 2,064 27.4
Republican Primary

DISTRICT 109

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
D ✓ Deshaundra Lockhart Jones 6,897 44.7%
D ✓ Carl Sherman 6,196 40.2
Democratic Primary

DISTRICT 121

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
R ✓ Matt Beebe 4,351 29.5%
R ✓ Steve Allison 3,884 26.3
Republican Primary

DISTRICT 133

CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
RUNOFF
D ✓ Sandra G. Moore 3,761 49.9%
D ✓ Marty Schexnayder 3,084 40.9
Democratic Primary

 

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23 Apr 2018
0

Primary Runoff Elections: Last Day to Register to Vote is TODAY!

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) and its members know the tremendous value their vote has in every election, especially the Primary Election. Now, we are nearing a critical voting time as runoff elections for the Primary Election are set to begin soon.

There are several key races that TRTA knows will be critical, and TRTA will begin sharing detailed information about those races starting tomorrow.

Most importantly, many elections for a seat in the Texas Legislature will be decided by just a handful of votes! Your vote has more power now than ever! Why? Because many registered voters do not participate during the Primary Election cycle. Even fewer participate when that cycle goes into runoff elections! Some races have been decided by as few as 40 votes!

Please, members of TRTA, be sure to schedule voting into your schedule during the Primary Election Runoff cycle. Better yet, schedule a time to go early and avoid long lines!

Here are some important things to know about the Primary Election Runoff Elections:

  • The PRIMARY RUNOFF election is when YOUR VOTE has exponential POWER!
  • Even if you did not vote in the first round of Primary Elections, you can still vote in the Runoff Election – and it is IMPORTANT that you DO!
  • Today is the deadline to REGISTER to vote: Monday, April 23rd. Click here to register now!
  • You can vote in the Republican Runoff as long as you did not vote in the Democrat Primary.
  • You can vote in the Democrat Runoff as long as you did not vote in the Republican Primary.
  • If you did not vote in the first round of Primary Elections, you may vote in either Runoff Election.
  • VOTE-BY-MAIL deadline: County Clerk must receive application by Friday, May 11.
  • EARLY VOTING: Monday, May 14 through Friday, May 18 (five days only!)
  • ELECTION DAY for Primary Runoff: Tuesday, May 22 at the precinct where you are registered to vote.
  • The fall General Election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 6.

Stay tuned for more information about voting in the Primary Elections Runoffs! Be sure to share this Inside Line with fellow retirees, family members and any active educators you may know.

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20 Apr 2018
0

TRS Board Meets, Votes on Rate of Return Assumption

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Board of Trustees met today to discuss changing the rate of return assumption for the pension fund.

The TRS Board of Trustees took two votes on changing the rate of return assumption. Neither vote passed. As a result, the board will postpone voting on the issue again until its July meeting.

The first vote to change the rate of return assumption was proposed by Trustee James Nance. Nance and three other members voted to change the rate of return assumption to 7.5 percent. However, the measure required five votes to pass. Subsequently, Trustee Christopher Moss proposed to change the rate of return assumption to 7.25 percent. His measure also didn’t receive the five-vote minimum to pass.

The board members are split on whether to make an incremental change to the rate of return assumption, which would slowly lower the rate of return assumption while monitoring the pension fund returns and making additional changes as necessary. The alternative is to lower the rate of return assumption immediately to 7.25 percent, which lowers the risk of the fund under-performing over the next several years, but requires a higher contribution increase by the Legislature.

The board’s decision was made all the more difficult by the litany of public testimony from retirees and association representatives. In addition, several board members noted the tremendous outcry and communication they have received from TRS members about the issue.

Several Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) officers attended the meeting, including President Nancy Byler, First Vice-President Patricia Macias, Second Vice-President Leroy DeHaven, Treasurer Marcy Cann and Legislative Coordinator Bill Barnes.

Many active and retired educators provided public comment during the meeting, including TRTA member Dianne Hastings from Carrollton. Leroy DeHaven, TRTA Second Vice-President and member of the Corpus Christi RTA, also spoke.

“Most retirees know that our pension is guaranteed by the state constitution, but our health care is not,” said DeHaven, also pointing out that cost-of-living increases are rare, with many retirees never receiving one. “Many of us are living off the same dollars that we were allocated years ago,” he said.

Tom Rogers from the Austin RTA spoke about his concerns that changing the rate of return assumption would increase the unfunded liabilities for the pension fund, putting retirees further at risk for not receiving much needed cost-of-living increases.

Rogers urged the board to work on making the fund actuarially sound so that retirees could receive a cost-of-living increase.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee also spoke, asking the Board of Trustees to focus on “ensuring that the pension system is going to be solvent for years, decades, forever.” Sixty-four percent of all revenue coming into the fund comes from investment earnings. “A small change has a tremendous impact,” said Lee.

Tim Lee stated that he understood the pressure the trustees are under in making a decision about the rate of return assumption and emphasized that “whatever change you make must be followed up with aggressive, purposeful, meaningful action to impress upon the Legislature that they must come to the table… with higher contributions to the fund.”

Lee said that TRS “must present factual data and talk about how the state of Texas has a tremendous bargain” in the pension fund.

“If we don’t support additional revenue for the fund, we are supporting cut benefits for future retirees,” Lee said. There is no current plan in place to increase benefits for retirees. Many of these retirees have recently absorbed huge health care cost increases. Since 2001, there has been only one cost-of-living increase for TRS retirees. That benefit adjustment was not paid to all retirees. The annuity for many TRTA members, even those who received the increase, is not sufficient to meet day-to-day expenses.

Without a guarantee of new money from the Texas Legislature, it would be almost impossible for retirees to receive another cost-of-living increase if TRS lowers the rate of return assumption. “If you’re in a deep hole, a short ladder does not get you out,” Lee said. “There is a lot of climbing that needs to be done.”

Ninety-five percent of Texas school districts don’t contribute to Social Security. As compared to other state pensions that don’t contribute to Social Security, Texas is receiving a bargain. The average contribution into those pension systems is 19 percent. The contribution from Texas to TRS is 6.8 percent. The employer contribution to TRS is comprised of two parts, a 2.8 percent contribution from school districts and a 4 percent contribution provided by the Texas Legislature out of the general revenue fund. If TRS went to a 7.5 percent rate of return assumption, the state would need to increase its contribution to TRS by 1.38 percent to ensure that the fund would be actuarially sound.

Lee stated that TRTA is a willing partner who will work with TRS and the Legislature to ensure the future of the fund.

After the conclusion of public comment, the TRS Board of Trustees began its discussion about the TRS of Texas Experience Study findings and recommendations, including considering the return assumption.

TRS Executive Brian Guthrie said having an overly optimistic assumption can harm the system as much as an overly pessimistic assumption. “We as fiduciaries have to assume some set of assumptions that are reasonable,” said Guthrie.

TRS has been told by experts that its rate of return assumption is not in-line with market assumptions. Guthrie encouraged trustees to act in the best interest of the fund. He presented several slides, including the one below, to explain the range of possible options for the trustees to consider when changing the rate of return assumption.

Chairman Jarvis Hollingsworth inquired about the impact on the fund if the assumption is lowered but the fund earns more than projected. Actuary Joe Newton of Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co., said it would have a positive impact on the fund and make the system more actuarially sound, provided contributions are increased accordingly.

Guthrie said this discussion is about “increasing long-term certainty about the fund,” a strategy he recommends over hoping that market returns are better than expected. Joe Newton said reducing the return assumption is a more conservative approach that where the return assumption is now at 8 percent.

However, Newton also stressed that there is another entity TRS has no control over, which is the Legislature. Newton said that TRS would have to eventually look at reducing the rate to 7.25 percent in the future if they lower it to 7.5 percent now.

Guthrie stated “the next step (after making this decision) is for us (TRS) to translate that into an ask for increased contributions” from the state. “Whatever we decide to do is what I will go and educate the Legislature about, and I will be very transparent.”

“Predicting what the Legislature will do is the unknown in this discussion, and at the end of the day, that is not your responsibility as a board,” Guthrie said.

Trustee James Nance, the retiree representative on the board, said “my fiduciary responsibility is to all members, including the trust.” He said to many retirees, this decision is not just a number. Nance said his moral responsibility is to act in the best interest of the members by supporting a reduction to 7.5 percent. Nance continued “our members are tapped out” and “the Legislature needs to own this.”

Chairman Hollingsworth stated he felt making the decision was a struggle and expressed concern about using incrementalism. “There could be damaging effects of having a more optimistic rate and then underperforming in the early years, because the damage can be so significant we can’t overcome it in the later years.”

Hollingsworth continued “part of me wants to be more conservative in the hopes that we overperform…rather than assuming a more optimistic rate and then underperforming.”

Ultimately, votes on changing the rate of return assumption to 7.25 percent and 7.5 percent both failed.

TRTA is focused on getting the pension fund actuarially sound so that retirees may receive a much-needed cost-of-living increase. Additionally, maintaining the actuarial soundness would help ensure a secure retirement for active educators.

TRTA supports a change to a 7.5 percent rate of return assumption. However, the Legislature must provide the necessary funds to make the TRS pension actuarially sound. TRTA looks forward to working with TRS in the coming months to find the best solution to this pressing issue. The TRS Board of Trustees will convene again in July.

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