Executive Director Report – January 2018

Here are some dates for your 2018 calendar. Tuesday, February 6 is precinct caucus night. With an open governor’s race in November, caucuses are the beginning of endorsements by the political parties for this key office. The election of a new governor in 2018 will be very important for our pensions in 2019 and beyond. Tuesday, February 20 the state legislature begins their short session in St. Paul. The legislature could make some changes to pensions in this session. Wednesday, March 7 is the tentative date for the Education Minnesota Retired Legislative Conference in Osseo. REAM and Education Minnesota Retired alternate years in hosting the Legislative Conference.

Executive Director’s Report – November 2017

Thanks to all who helped with this year’s REAM Conference at Grand Casino Hinckley and thanks to all 107 of you who took the time and effort to attend. I have attended and been a part of 17 REAM Conventions/Conferences and the 2017 one was one of the best, if not the best. We had wonderful and informative speakers and entertainment. Joe Schmit’s address was outstanding and worth hearing again. Some commented that it is great to get together with former educators and meet new retired educators. Next September we are at Jackpot Junction in Morton and attendees will not have to face any smoke as the hotel and conference areas are smoke-free. Jackpot Junction will provide one $10 Free Play Coupon for each attendee. You do have to become an Express Club Member which costs nothing to join. Some of you joined the Express Club back in 2010 when we met at Jackpot Junction.

Lonnie Duberstein, Anita and I will be heading to Austin, Texas in early November at the invitation of the Association Member Benefits Advisors (AMBA). They call it “The AMBA Roundup”. It’s educational (we learn about all the AMBA benefits), social (we meet Presidents and Executive Directors from other states, and visit interesting spots in Austin), and at no cost to REAM. AMBA pays for their guests. AMBA provides benefits in 35 states. It’s also about how great Texas is as a state. The guest speaker is Jim Craig who played on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team that earned the Gold Medal. I believe Minnesota had several players on that team and the head coach was from Minnesota.

In February the Minnesota Legislature will be back in session. During the past two years no new public pension bill became law in Minnesota. There’s a good chance that will be true in 2018. The people who rate bonds could lower Minnesota’s bond rating if no action is taken in 2018. That may force some movement. Enjoy your 2% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase from TRA and 1% COLA from PERA in January along with a 2% increase in Social Security.

Executive Director Report – Sept. 2017

There are not too many days until the REAM Annual Conference which, this year, is at Grand Casino Hinckley on September 25 and 26. We haven’t had the Annual Conference at a casino in four years, but we know we have REAM members who especially like to attend when we are at a casino. I believe we were last at Grand Casino Hinckley in 2008. So, we hope to see many of you in Hinckley!

We just had our Association of State Retired Teacher Executives (ASRTE) Conference in Las Vegas. Next year we are meeting in Minnesota. This conference is for executive directors and they come from Alaska to Massachusetts to Alabama to California. It’s great visiting with people who are doing the same kind of job that I do. Some of the executive directors are volunteers with only 500 members such as in the state of Wyoming. Then, there’s Texas with 70,000 members and Tim Lee who is a full time executive director with a staff of ten. Tim earns his salary as his job is not easy. Texas now has Josh McGee as chair of the Texas Pension Review Board. McGee was appointed by the Texas Governor. Josh McGee is a vice president at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. John Arnold wants all public pension systems in the United States to switch from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. There are folks in our state who would like our plan changed to a defined contribution. We must continually be on the watch and educating folks about the negative effects of such a change in their pensions. John and Laurie’s Foundation has been spending millions for several years to bring about these changes, and they have been successful in a few states. John Arnold was with Enron and left just before Enron collapsed. Enron employees and investors lost a lot of money. We need to be able to articulate why defined benefit plans are superior to defined contribution plans. Taking the same amount of money defined benefit plans are at least 42% more efficient than a defined contribution plan. Which would you rather have?

Our trip to Sweden and Norway that I mentioned in the July issue, turned out to be better than we expected. I found a historian in Norway who has the same great-great grandfather as I do. This great-great grandfather signed the Norwegian Constitution, and his farm is now a museum. Anita spoke to a fellow who saw us studying our papers in the cemetery at one of the churches we visited. He walked over and asked if he could help us. He looked over her list of relatives, and put her in touch with a relative of her mother’s. Anita and her Swedish relative are now on the computer and sharing family information. Much different from the long trips that brought folks here by boat and the long letters home.