TRTA Members Defend Pension Plan, Urge More Funding for Health Care Program

Important Announcement from TRTA: Former TRS Executive Director, Ronnie Jung, has joined the TRTA team! Mr. Jung retired from his TRS position this past January and is now bringing his exception pension fund knowledge and expertise to TRTA. Ronnie is a recognized internationally for his pension fund knowledge and we are honored to have him working with Tim Lee and the TRTA legislative team to protect and improve your retirement benefits. TRTA is committed to you and to having the best legislative team working on your behalf.

The TRS Board of Trustees continued their legislatively ordered study of alternative benefit/funding structures for both the pension and health care plans. More than 100 TRTA members attended the hearing (held in District 11 at the Birdville ISD Athletics and Fine Arts Center)making a strong statement that TRTA is the voice for all TRS public education retirees. TRTA wants to thank the many in attendance from the local Birdville Association of Retired School Personnel, as well as all in attendance from District 11 and District 10.

Mr. Bill Barnes, TRTA State Legislative Coordinator, provided strong testimony defending the TRS traditional defined benefits plan. “When I first started my career, I had a fellow educator tell me that one day I would depend on my retirement check from TRS. She said that while we may not earn a lot as educators, we have the promise of a good retirement,” he explained to the TRS panel. “She also told me that someday I may have to protect my retirement for both myself and for those still in the classroom…and that’s what we are here to do,” Barnes stated.

TRTA testimony pointed out that the TRS defined benefit plan is one of the best funded and best managed plans in the country and in the world. The demand for an alternative benefits structure stems from politically motivated individuals and groups that are not putting the best interests’ of educators or Texas first.

I am more and more convinced that this is nothing more than a manufactured ‘crisis,’ as I have heard no compelling argument to make change for Texas TRS,” said Tim Lee, TRTA Executive Director. “TRS has a great model of using combining private sector investment professionals with public servant trust fund members (both active and retired) to manage this fund…and the system’s performance cannot and should not be diminished,” Lee stated.

TRTA maintains that the study, while providing an opportunity to explain the great value offered to TRS members and all Texans, should bring a greater focus on the fact that the system’s benefit programs need additional funding to protect TRS retirees’ retirement security and their health insurance benefits.

“The real issue we need to work on this session is finding more funding to protect retiree health care premiums and the TRS-Care program,” Lee commented. TRS reported that the retiree health care program may be running a significant deficit in the next biennium without legislative action. “TRS retirees are already paying a great deal for their health care including premiums, prescription costs, and many other out of pocket costs. Forcing retirees to pick up the cost of fixing TRS-Care funding through increased premiums, benefit reductions, or both is not only unacceptable, it is impossible. Many retirees simply would not be able to afford it,” Lee explained. TRS-Care has been managed with great efficiency over its 25-year history, but medical cost increases are simply rising faster than the revenue streams that are used to support the TRS-Care program (retiree premiums, contributions by active employees, school districts and more).

In addition, the legislature reduced funding for the TRS-Care program last session. TRTA is calling for this funding to be fully restored and that any additional emergency appropriations be made next biennium to protect retiree premiums.

TRTA is working with many groups and coalitions to protect your retirement benefits. The power of retired and active TRS members working together cannot be overstated. As Mr. Barnes commented in his testimony, we are all in this together and we must stand strong against those who want to diminish the retirement benefits of our public educators.

Concluding Comments

TRTA values your membership and service! The war against public education retirees and active employee benefits is just now starting. TRTA is dedicated to protecting your TRS pension and health care programs. We are going to fight to help our retirees receive some form of pension increase. Protecting and improving TRS retirement benefits has been TRTA’s core operational activity for 60 years. We know the value of these benefits, we are the experts in pension protection, and you are the most vital part of our legislative outreach efforts. Thank you for all you do.

In the coming weeks, many of you will receive a TRTA membership renewal request. Some of you may receive an invitation to join TRTA for the first time. Please, we need everyone who is able to join with us in this fight to protect TRS benefits. Thank you for your consideration.

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