Public education retirees are seeking answers to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas’s (TRS) decision to lease new office space in downtown Austin. The TRS lease is slated to cost $326,000 per month at the “Indeed Tower,” which will house the TRS investment team.

Retired and active public educators have taken to social media to admonish TRS’s decision, and legislators have written letters to the state agency questioning the price tag. The Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) Executive Director Tim Lee spoke with the Austin-American Statesman about the TRS lease.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) Executive Director Tim Lee spoke with the Austin-American Statesman about the TRS lease.

“People are just mad, and they don’t understand how (the retirement system) could be spending this much money on a lease,” Lee said.

Lee has also spoken to Brian Guthrie, TRS Executive Director, who assured him that the TRS Board of Trustees and he understand people are concerned about the lease issue. Guthrie says that TRS is looking forward to speaking openly about the lease issue with the Legislature as well at the upcoming TRS Board of Trustees meeting (scheduled for February 20 and 21).

“I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the Indeed Tower lease, address our (TRS) members’ concerns, and provide all the facts in a public setting,” Guthrie said. “I look forward to a discussion of our agency’s long-term facilities planning process.”

TRS has been called by the Texas Senate and House to testify about their decision. TRS will testify to the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 25. TRS will testify to the House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee in early March, though no date has been specified at this time.

TRTA applauds the Texas Legislature for their immediate attention on this matter and thanks Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson and Senate State Affairs Chair Bryan Hughes, as well as House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Chair Jim Murphy and House Appropriations Chair Giovanni Capriglione for their concern and working this issue into their upcoming hearing schedules. Like TRTA, these elected officials care about retired and active public educators and want to ensure that TRS is managing the trust fund dollars in the best interests of all Texans.

TRTA has been clear in our concern over the lease of the Indeed Tower space. Our members have sent a loud and strong message that they are not in favor of what seems to be unnecessary spending on costly downtown Austin office space.

TRTA also has a nearly 70 year working history with TRS, and we know TRS understands their fiduciary duty to the trust fund members. We hope that the upcoming legislative hearings will shed more light on this topic and provide a more complete picture as to why TRS believed this decision was the right one to make.

Mr. Guthrie expressed his appreciation to TRTA and our members for constructive input on the matter, as well as for their patience to hear more about this in the upcoming public hearings.

We appreciate TRS speaking with TRTA directly on this matter, and we are also pleased to hear that TRS is being responsive to member concerns and plans to address this issue at their upcoming board meeting and at the legislative hearings.

TRTA will provide links to the live broadcast of these meetings and will offer our association insight as the information is presented.

Primary Elections Are Right Around the Corner

The Texas Primary elections will occur on March 3. However, early voting starts Feb. 18. Primary elections are a critical and undervalued part of the election process. Many elections in Texas are determined in the Primary elections, not the General election.

Beyond being educator’s civic duty to vote, the elections represent your best way to influence change on your retirement benefits. It’s critical that our members vote for pro-education candidates. TRTA’s friends at Texas Educators Vote have created an excellent website on how you can make your vote matter. Additionally, Raise Your Hand Texas is a great resource to learn about pro-education candidates. Raise Your Hand Texas has more than 40 political candidate forums happening all over the state. Finally, TRTA local unit meetings are in full swing, and many are providing a platform for candidates to come speak.

WEP Reform Update

TRTA continues to work with congressional members in Washington D.C. to advance Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reform. As a part of the Public Retirees Alliance, TRTA is working with the Mass Retirees to educate congressmen and influence change.

Currently, Rep. Richie Neal (D – Massachusetts), the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has filed H.R. 4540, which proposes to repeal the WEP and replace it with a new, fairer formula. Rep. Kevin Brady has filed a very similar bill in H.R. 3934. Both bills would be an improvement for the lives of retirees impacted by the WEP. TRTA is pushing for the best possible outcome for retirees.

Please contact your congressional representative and ask them to support both H.R. 4540 and H.R. 3934. You can find your representative’s contact information here. TRTA members can be incredibly helpful to get this issue moving by calling their representatives at least twice per month requesting an update on the progress of these two bills. Let them know that relief is needed as soon as possible!

Below, you’ll find a list of the Texas Congressional Representatives. If your Congressperson is listed below as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, your voice is amplified! Your communications of support for these two bills are vital as the Ways and Means Committee must act on a WEP bill before the full Congress can start addressing the issue.

As of this writing, only one Texas Congressman serving on House Ways and Means has not signed on to either H.R. 4540 or H.R. 3934. Congressman Lloyd Doggett is a friend to all educators, but we need his support on a bill that has a chance to pass in Congress! All TRTA members are welcome to contact Congressman Doggett and urge his support of H.R. 4540, HR 3934, or both.

Finally, if you have friends or family who live in states where the other House and Ways members live, please ask them to call those Congressional members on your behalf.

Name Phone Number Signed HR 4540 (Neal) Signed HR 3934 (Brady)
Jodey Arrington (202) 225-4005 No Yes
Kenny Marchant (202) 225-6605 No Yes
Kevin Brady (202) 225-4901 No Yes
Lloyd Doggett (202) 225-4865 No No

 

 

Name Phone Number Signed HR 4540 (Neal) Signed HR 3934 (Brady)
Al Green (202) 225-7508 Yes No
Bill Flores (202) 225-6105 No Yes
Brian Babin (202) 225-1555 No Yes
Chip Roy (202) 225-4236 No Yes
Colin Allred (202) 225-2231 Yes No
Dan Crenshaw (202) 225-6565 No Yes
Eddie Johnson (202) 225-8885 No No
Filemon Vela (202) 225-9901 Yes Yes
Henry Cuellar (202) 225-1640 Yes Yes
Joaquin Castro (202) 225-3236 Yes No
John Carter (202) 225-3864 No Yes
John Ratcliffe (202) 225-6673 No Yes
Kay Granger (202) 225-5071 No Yes
Lance Gooden (202) 225-3484 Yes Yes
Lizzie Fletcher (202) 225-2571 No No
Louie Gohmert (202) 225-3035 No Yes
Mac Thornberry (202) 225-3706 No No
Marc Veasey (202) 225-9897 Yes No
Michael Burgess (202) 225-7772 No Yes
Michael Cloud (202) 225-7742 No No
Michael Conaway (202) 225-3605 No Yes
Michael McCaul (202) 225-2401 No Yes
Pete Olson (202) 225-5951 No Yes
Randy Weber (202) 225-2831 No Yes
Roger Williams (202) 225-9896 No Yes
Ron Wright (202) 225-2002 No Yes
Sheila Jackson Lee (202) 225-3816 No No
Sylvia Garcia (202) 225-1688 Yes No
Van Taylor (202) 225-4201 No Yes
Veronica Escobar (202) 225-4831 Yes No
Vicente Gonzalez (202) 225-2531 Yes Yes
Will Hurd (202) 225-4511 No Yes