Blog

08 May
0

Pensions Committee Considering Ways to Help Retirees

During a May 4 meeting, the Texas House Pensions Committee reviewed seven bills that if passed would provide benefit increases for annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) was present at the hearing, with many members attending and testifying. Below is a list of bills that were considered during Monday’s hearing.

  • HB 45 (Martinez, “Mando”): Relating to a cost-of-living increase applicable to benefits paid by TRS.
  • HB 701 (Allen): Relating to certain benefits paid by the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS).
  • HB 1149 (Hernandez): Relating to a cost-of-living increase applicable to benefits paid by TRS.
  • HB 1967 (Keffer): Relating to a supplemental payment for retirees of TRS and the unfunded actuarial liabilities allowed under that system.
  • HB 2873 (Allen): Relating to benefits paid by the TRS.
  • HB 3259 (Herrero): Relating to a cost-of-living adjustment applicable to certain benefits paid by TRS.
  • HB 2974 (Flynn): Relating to contributions to, benefits from, and the administration of systems.

TRTA is grateful to House Pensions Chairman Dan Flynn (R – Canton) for allowing these bills to be heard in committee.

All of the bills reviewed during the hearing were left pending in committee. Several additional steps would be required in order for any of the bills to pass and for TRS retirees to receive some form of benefit increase. The bills must first be passed out of the House committee, voted on by the entire body of the Texas House of Representatives, sent to a Senate Committee and passed out of committee to the entire body of the Texas Senate, then sent to the Governor.

TRTA is working with legislators closely to help retirees, with a focus on finishing that job that was started during the 83rd Legislative Session. As you may recall, Senate Bill 1458 was passed in 2013 and made the TRS pension fund actuarially sound for the first time in many years. As a result of the bill’s passage, more than 200,000 TRS retirees were able to receive their first permanent cost-of-living increase since 2001.

However, more than 100,000 TRS retirees did not benefit from the raise. The TRS pension fund has the capability to provide such an increase to these remaining retirees at this point in time. However, as our members have learned throughout the years, a pension increase can only be approved with action by the Texas Legislature.

TRTA fully supports legislation that would provide some type of benefit increase to TRS annuitants this session. TRS retirees live on fixed incomes and must rely upon action from the Texas Legislature to improve their livelihood. 95% of school districts in Texas do not pay into the federal Social Security program, meaning the vast majority of TRS retirees do not receive additional monthly income beyond their average monthly TRS annuity of $1900.

As the 84th Legislative Session draws to a close, we have much work to do! In the Texas Senate, many of our friends on both sides of the aisle are also considering ways to assist retirees this session. Sen. Jose Menendez (D – San Antonio) is attempting to pass legislation that would help retirees with an actuarially sound benefit increase.

Many other bills are also competing for time on the calendar. We appreciate Sen. Menendez and the members of the Senate who have worked to support ideas helping TRS retirees.

The entire Senate is rallying to the work being done by the Senate Finance Committee and its chairman, Sen. Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound), that addresses our health care funding needs. The Texas House took action last month to fully fund TRS-Care, and the Senate is working on this plan now, as well. TRTA will send a brief update about action on the TRS-Care plan later today.

Thank You!

Please be sure to stay tuned into the Inside Line throughout the 84th Legislative Session, as we will be bringing you all the latest updates on our broad legislative agenda, including any bills concerning TRS-Care, the continued funding of the TRS pension trust fund, pension increases for all TRS retirees, and also congressional issues such as the WEP and GPO.

Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates.

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27 Apr
0

TRTA Requesting Your Support in Passage of State and Congressional Bills (Featuring Video Content Including Tim Lee and Bill Barnes)

The Texas Legislative Session ends in 38 days. The funding bill for the 84th Texas Legislature is in its final phases, and it will include approximately $770 million toward TRS-Care, the health care program more than 240,000 retired public school educators rely upon.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is asking you to call 1-888-674-3788 and thank your legislator for supporting TRS-Care. The importance of staying in contact with legislators cannot be understated, as they are the gateways through which bills are passed. The strength of TRTA lies in the active participation of our dedicated members. Your contributions are the reason why we are able work with the legislature and find the necessary funding for TRS-Care.

Show Your Support for HR 711

Additionally, now is a good time to contact your U.S. Congressman about HR 711. HR 711 is a bill to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which reduces the ability of public educators to receive Social Security. Congressman Kevin Brady (R – Texas) has filed the bill, which provides a more fair formula for Social Security calculations. However, HR 711 requires the support of other congressional members to advance.

The passage of HR 711 would represent a huge victory for the retirement benefits of public educators, firemen and police officers across the nation. Please show your support for this bill by making sure your Congressman has signed on to it.

TRTA is finalizing a “Support for HR 711” Inside Line that will be released later this week. It will have pointers on contacting Congressional members, major points that should be made, and a fact page for your use.

Making a phone call to your Congressman’s office will help draw more attention to this issue as advocacy campaigns supporting the adoption of this important bill are revving up all over the country.

Thank You!

Please be sure to stay tuned into the Inside Line throughout the 84th Legislative Session, as we will be bringing you all the latest updates on our broad legislative agenda, including any bills concerning TRS-Care, the continued funding of the TRS pension trust fund, pension increases for all TRS retirees, and also congressional issues such as the WEP and GPO.

Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates.

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22 Apr
0

TRTA Working with Texas State Senators on Legislation

Yesterday, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) provided an update about some of the work being done to help public education retirees this session. Great solutions are developing for the TRS-Care funding shortfall, and many legislators are looking at ways to provide possible benefit increases to annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

Many devoted TRTA members are responding and inquiring about the Texas Senate’s actions that are aimed at increasing retirees’ benefits.

TRTA members who attended our Day at the Capitol event on April 8 will recall the motivating and encouraging words of Sen. Jose Menendez (D – San Antonio). Senator Menendez has been a steadfast supporter of the TRTA legislative agenda, dedicated to meeting with the local units in his district. Senator Menendez is an outspoken proponent of helping retirees receive additional benefit support.

Senator Menendez filed Senate Bill 1991. If passed, the bill would provide a pension increase to over 100,000 TRS retirees. The bill would provide a 3 percent cost-of-living increase (capped at $100 per month) to those retirees who did not receive one last session as a result of Senate Bill 1458. Like its House companion bill mentioned in yesterday’s update, SB 1991 would affect annuitants who retired between September 2004 and August 2013. Menendez has also filed a bill (Senate Bill 1833) that would provide a thirteenth check to TRS annuitants. TRTA fully supports this legislation and looks forward to working with Senator Menendez and his Senate colleagues.

The Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston), and her colleagues are exploring long-term solutions to fund TRS-Care. TRTA greatly appreciates this work, and we have many friends in the Texas Legislature who are making TRS-Care a top priority this session.

TRTA is truly grateful for the support we receive from our legislators. Both the House and the Senate are working with us to resolve TRS-Care’s challenges and ensure our pension fund is protected from groups wanting to diminish the value of our TRS defined benefit plan.

As recently as April 20 during a House Pensions Committee hearing, various anti-pension interests testified that defined benefit pension plans are not sustainable and should be terminated! Even with the passage of SB 1458 in 2013 and an actuarially sound and robust TRS pension fund, defined benefit opponents continue to press legislators to eliminate these valuable and necessary retirement plans!

TRTA continues to be a powerful voice reinforcing the value of our TRS defined benefit plan and its strong actuarial condition! We are making progress in resolving the TRS-Care situation, with an eye on a future that ensures our retirees have access to reasonable health care benefits at an affordable cost.

We cannot do this without the support of our members and the friends we have in the Texas Legislature! This week and the weeks to come will be busy, as TRTA continues to advance your issues and our legislative agenda.

Ten Facts Every TRTA Member Should Know

  • TRTA is represented in the Texas Legislature by a professional lobbyist, Vicki Truitt, who served many years in the Texas House of Representatives and was Chairman of the Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee for several sessions.
  • During FY 2014, TRS earned $19.4 billion in investment earnings for your pension fund.
  • Every $1 in benefits paid by TRS generates $2.34 in economic activity.
  • Over $892 million in state revenues and $342 million in local government revenues were generated by TRS retirement benefit payments in 2014.
  • 1 out of every 20 Texans is a member of TRS.
  • TRS currently has more than 1.4 million participants, growing from 38,000 in 1937.
  • Every legislator in Texas knows someone who is an educator! Our voice is powerful, and best of all, meaningful to those who represent us. Be sure to stay in contact with your elected officials throughout the 84th Legislative Session!
  • TRTA provides a toll-free Legislative Hotline that allows you to call your legislator’s Capitol offices: 1.888.674.3788. Every day is a good day to call and say, “Thank you for your support!”
  • TRTA members gave from their hearts more than 5,585,260 hours of volunteer service in 2014, equivalent to a value of more than $130 million.
  • Retired educators volunteer in schools and promote lifelong learning by providing more than 700,000 books to children through the Children’s Book Project, including 139,438 books last year alone!
  • You are the most important factor in TRTA’s success in the Texas Legislature! Your dedication and motivation to provide quality retirement benefits for your fellow retirees and pre-retirees is what matters the most!

Thank You!

Membership matters! In fact, it is critical! TRTA needs your involvement to protect over 300,000 retirees and 1,000,000 pre-retirees.

Our membership renewal period is now underway. If you have not yet renewed your dues with the only association in Texas that works exclusively to protect and improve retirement benefits for TRS annuitants, you may do so today! Give us a call at 1.800.880.1650 to pay by phone.

Please be sure to stay tuned into the Inside Line throughout the 84th Legislative Session, as we will be bringing you all the latest updates on our broad legislative agenda, including any bills concerning TRS-Care, the continued funding of the TRS pension trust fund, pension increases for all TRS retirees, and also congressional issues such as the WEP and GPO.

Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates.

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