Yesterday was Election Day in Texas. Texans elected a new Governor and a new Lieutenant Governor, as well as multiple new State Senators and Representatives and other elected officials. (For a complete list of election results, please visit this link).

Legislators who have served before and those who have just been elected for the first time are now shifting from campaign mode into policy mode. What this means for our members is that there is no time to waste to get our issues front and center!

The 84th Legislative Session is less than two months away! Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) are not sitting still. In fact, our members are ready to start protecting their benefits and getting the word out that their health care and pensions should be top priorities in 2015!

As you may have read in previous issues of The VOICEand the Inside Line, the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program is facing a huge funding shortfall. This shortfall has been projected to be as high as $1 billion by the end of the 2016-17 biennium, and has fluctuated to a low of $750 million. Legislators must work in 2015 to resolve this issue as they plan budgets for all state agencies for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Retirees should not be subject to this financial uncertainty! The shortfall, regardless of its size, is a significant hurdle that MUST BE OVERCOME. If nothing is done during the next session to protect TRS-Care from this shortfall, premiums could DOUBLE.

With only one permanent cost-of-living increase passed since 2001, retirees have carefully budgeted their finances to include access to this affordable program. TRTA does not know of any public education retiree in Texas who can afford to pay twice as much for their health care.

Now is the time for our members, their fellow retirees and pre-retirees to get active! Here are a few things that you can do now to start protecting the TRS-Care health insurance program and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund!

Watch TRTA TV
Find TRTA TV on YouTube and watch our informative videos, including legislative training features! This brand new way to receive information from TRTA about your pension and other retirement benefits provides quick, accessible updates! We will be using videos throughout legislative session to inform you about pending bills and votes and to let you know how you can help.

Here is a brief but helpful tutorial, which shows you how to sign up for Tim Lee’s email newsletter, the Inside Line. Make sure you stay informed by receiving these regular updates. We use the Inside Line for our email action alert campaigns, which helps us contact legislators when urgent matters—such as a bill going up for a vote—happen!

The video also shows you how to read The VOICEonline and where to find legislative fact sheets, as well as how to find out who your legislators are and their contact information. Share this video with your fellow retirees!

Attend your local unit meetings!
Are you a member of one of TRTA’s 259 local units? Be sure to attend your fall meetings! Legislative Chairmen across the state are preparing for the upcoming legislative session and are looking for volunteers who want to get involved. Join a contact team, and be your local unit’s go-to person when your legislator needs the facts from a trusted source.

If you are not a member of a local unit, consider joining one! There is a TRTA local unit near you! Visit our website and hover over the tab TRTA Near You to learn more.

Local units provide members with a front row seat to the action. Legislators and candidates for political office often attend local unit meetings. Speakers, such as TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee, come to meetings to provide members with updated information about TRS-Care and pension issues. Not only can you experience fellowship, but also you can get involved with any of a variety of committees, from legislative to public relations to health care.

Share Your Story!
TRTA is still in need of personal anecdotes from our members who use the TRS-Care health insurance program. We know that protecting the program from a $750 million shortfall will be a top priority for TRTA in 2015, but starting to share this message with legislators in January is too late!

Let’s get the word out NOW that TRS-Care is vital to our livelihood and that retirees should not shoulder the entire burden of the financial crisis!

Share your story by sending an email to us at info@trta.org, subject line My TRS-Care Story. We want to know the following from you:

  1. How would losing your TRS-Care health insurance impact you?
  2. How would you be impacted if your premiums increased by up to 135%?
  3. Why is TRS-Care important to you?

Be sure to include your name and address so that we can ensure your legislator hears it from you!

Contact Your Legislators!
Consider sharing your TRS-Care story with your legislators as well!
First determine who your legislators are by clicking on this link and submitting your information.

A list of your elected officials will appear. Look for your Texas State Senator and Texas State Representative. Their phone numbers and addresses will be listed.

If you prefer to email your legislators, use the following standard email format and input their names:

Texas Senators:
firstname.lastname@senate.state.tx.us

Texas Representatives:
firstname.lastname@house.state.tx.us

Remember, legislators need to know why TRS-Care is a priority to you and why it should be a priority for them in the 84th Legislative Session. They need to hear from as many retirees as possible!

Without legislative action, TRS-Care premiums will double! A solution must be found and NOW. We need every member of TRTA involved in making sure TRS-Care is not ignored in 2015!

Will you commit to contacting your legislator today?

Thank You!
Thank you for being a member of TRTA. If you are not a member and would like to join, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.

Share this article with every retiree you know, as well as with active school personnel! Your input is important. Your membership and support are crucial. Thank you for all your help and support.

Contact us at info@trta.org with your questions, thoughts, or concerns. Follow us on Facebook and visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates.