On Tuesday, March 4, Texans made their way to the polls to cast their votes in the 2014 Texas Primary Election. We know that thousands of members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) participated in the election process over the past several weeks, including hundreds who voted early.

Several races were determined in the Primary Election, while some will continue over the next 12 weeks as candidates face runoff elections on May 27. If you voted in the Primary Election, please be sure to vote in the runoff! Please recall that Texas election law requires that you vote in the same party runoff as the party primary you voted in for the Primary Election.

Voter turnout is historically low in the Texas Primary Election, and even lower in Primary Runoff Elections. Early voting for the Primary Runoff Election begins May 19 and ends May 23. Please put this on your schedule!

TRTA will provide updates over the next several weeks about key races that our members should be following. To review election results, please visit the Texas Tribune Election Results Scoreboard.

Focusing on TRS-Care

We discussed the importance of voting in the Primary Election numerous times in February and March. One of the most significant concerns facing public education retirees in the 84thLegislative Session that begins in January 2015 is the impending funding crisis to the TRS-Care health insurance program.

A large number of our elected officials will be new or have less than two years of experience by the time the next legislative session begins. This means many legislators may not be familiar with the issues impacting retired teachers in Texas or our active school personnel! It is essential that we elect Senators and Representatives that support TRS-Care and the TRS pension fund.

As you will read in the upcoming issue of The VOICE (which should reach your mailbox in mid-March) TRS-Care is facing a $1 billion projected shortfall in the next biennium if nothing is done to improve the program’s long-term sustainability.

The official TRS report indicates the shortfalls to TRS-Care are $424 million in FY 2016 and $591 million in FY 2017. This combined total of $1.02 billion is what is needed to keep the fund solvent through the next biennium.  Another $721 million shortfall is expected in FY 2018. In 2013 alone, costs exceeded funding for TRS-Care by $190 million.

This information reveals that the shortfalls will continue to increase dramatically each biennium. It also tells us that the Legislature will be looking at all options to “fix” the TRS-Care crisis. The definition of “fix” is now being discussed by TRS, TRTA, other stakeholders and our elected officials.

This crisis is not like the manufactured crisis wrought by groups and individuals who want to rob public servants of their hard-earned pensions. The TRS-Care crisis potentially is far more detrimental because the reserve fund is nearly gone and the options for dealing with it are not easy fixes.

Please take the time to read the article about TRS-Care thoroughly when you receive The VOICE in the mail. If the Primary election for your Texas State Senator or State Representative resulted in the need for a runoff, we ask that you contact the candidates on your ballot and talk to them or their staff about the urgent concerns with TRS-Care.

TRTA will provide a list of key runoff races the same week that you receive your news bulletin in the mail.

TRTA Prepares for the 61st Annual TRTA Convention

Nearly 1000 members of TRTA are planning to attend the 61st Annual TRTA Convention April 13-15 in Dallas. TRS-Care will be a key topic on the minds of many of our District and Local Unit leaders as well as our state officers.

If you are planning to attend, and have not yet registered, you may do so when you receive The VOICE in the mail this month. You also have the option of registering for the Convention online by clicking here.

Hotel reservations can be made at the Dallas Marriott City Center (overflow hotel), located at 650 North Pearl Street, which has limited room availability at the rate of $139 for a single, double or triple room. To reserve your room, please call 1.800.228.9290. Please be sure to state that you are with TRTA.

All convention events will be held at the Sheraton Hotel, accessible by a sky bridge from the Dallas Marriott City Center. For more details about our informative training sessions, keynote speakers and the convention schedule, please visit the TRTA website.

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, contact us at 1.800.880.1650.