This President’s Message sends my thoughts in so many different directions, that a nice, finely blended narrative doesn’t seem possible. Along with that, my space in the July issue is limited because of important Annual Conference information. I am going to leave the current news for others to share. Instead, I plan to acknowledge several people for their contributions made for the benefit of REAM members.
The first thing that needs to be written is, Thank you, to our Legislative Committee: Tim Moynihan, Henry Carbone, and John Fisher. They are the front line defensive team for us all. As they work on our behalf, they embody the REAM motto – “Protecting Pensions. Serving Members.” By interacting with TRA, the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement, and elected officials, they have been instrumental in bringing our voices to those discussions. Thank you gentlemen. Also, on the front line, are four others that need to be recognized for their contributions: Paul Ehrhard, Curt Hutchens, Don Zwach, and Don Leathers. Thank you gentlemen. Thank you also needs to be shared with the rest of the Board, particularly the Division Directors who helped to get the word out to their locals. I do want to call your attention to two fine legislative articles that will appear in the next TRA TRIB Newsletter. Marti Zins, TRA Board President, wrote an article, “Another year, no pension bill,” that highlights the current situation from the TRA perspective. The cover article, “TRA financial remedies fail at legislature,” does not name an author, but I’m guessing Laurie Hacking. I encourage everyone to read the REAM NEWS, and the TRIB, for a sense of the frustration resulting from the last two legislative sessions.
Finally, I would like to recognize Chuck Hellie, REAM’s Executive Director, for his dedication and work on the Annual Conference. His planning for that event should not go unnoticed. Thank you, Chuck.
Unfortunately, it seems that for the retirees, and actives, the public pension funds have become hostages in the political arena.
Please note the 2017 REAM Annual Conference this year is at Grand Casino Hinckley. The Registration form is in this REAM News with deadlines for Hotel Reservations of September 3 and Conference Registration of September 10.
It looks like you will get your same COLA on January 1, 2018 as you received in 2017. The legislature voted to lower the COLA, increase the employee and employer contributions at the same rate and refused to put in the Governor’s budget increase for public pensions. The Governor vetoed the bill.
My wife, Anita and I, spent the last two weeks of May in Norway and Sweden visiting where our grandparents and great grandparents lived before immigrating to the U.S.
We visited where my great-great grandfather signed the Norwegian Constitution in 1814 and also his farm which is now a museum. We enjoy geneology and travel.
The Legislature closed its Session after working overtime in “Special Session” to complete its work. The resulting legislation has left the watchers of Pension Policy feeling as Seinfeld once said, “It is much to do about Nothing”. No Legislation updates for TRA or PERA were passed.
The Much to Do . . . started in the Fall of 2016 when stakeholders, including REAM, were asked for and gave input to the TRA staff and Board of Trustees. It was contentious. Many REAM Board members were involved and spoke in opposition to COLA provisions in particular. In the END . . . we were heard. Adjustments were made in the proposal that would go before the LCPR for their consideration.
We waited to hear who would be selected by the Republican majority to sit on the LCPR. Hoping on hope that relationships could be formed prior to the January 2017 Legislative Session. In the meantime, we hosted our semi-annual Legislative Conference on Feb. 8. It was attended by forty plus persons from EdMn Retired and REAM. There were three Legislators who were invited and agreed to come. The eventual Chair of the LCPR canceled five days prior. A second Republican member did not show without apology. Only the Lone Democrat came to speak with us. Commission members members were finally announced 4 days before the first meeting of the LCPR.
It was the Spector of things to come. At LCPR meetings, well attended by REAM and other stakeholders, testimony was elicited by the Commission. Four REAM leaders signed up … Only two would be allowed due to last minute time limitation rules. A relationship was becoming evident. It was a time with meetings cancelled, no agenda items involving the TRA proposal, and directives from Republican House members to research “Pension Cost Saving” measures. A report by staff on possible measures had no connection, were not a part of the TRA proposal, and had several provisions that represent benefit reductions for present and future retirees.
Prior to entering the final month of the session, (May), many of us were asking, “What will the Commission be bringing forward to include in the Omnibus Pension Bill. TRA staff informed us that a Bill had been constructed that was in No Way a measure that addressed ANY Part of the TRA proposal… Something new had been crafted without a costing, without TRA input, without any testimony from anyone!! We found ourselves in a position that was UNLIKE anything we had experienced before.
There was a call for testimony and again we signed up. EdMN Retired, REAM, the Committee of 13, MSBA, MMSA all gave testimony in opposition to the Bill… No funding, No Consensus, No Goodness for any of the Stakeholders, were the common points made. In the context of a Billion dollar surplus, it made no sense at all. On May 3rd, the Bill went on to the Senate and the House on a 9-4 … Party line Vote!! It was the first time, in my experience, where something other than a “Unanimous” Vote passed the Omnibus Bill out of the LCPR.
After running its course in the Senate and House committees, TRA was removed entirely from the Bill. That same Bill was vetoed by the Governor as it contained “Preemption Policy” he had promised to reject. Much was done. Nothing was the result. This is the Second consecutive Session where we received NO help for the health and well being of our Pensions.
It is important to note, that there were occasions in the Last hours of this process, where we put out a call for involvement to REAM Leaders and members. Thank you to those who made a trip to Rally at the Capitol, despite the fact that strong thunderstorms were making that trip difficult.
Thank you too for those who made phone calls and wrote letters to the persons who represent YOU.
In retrospect, I would say, that the need for more active involvement has clearly arrived. It is my hope that as we look forward, we can plan for and implement new ways to propose, advocate for, and bring to fruition positive Pension Policy. We will be asking for your input to formulate these plans. We will likewise have some ideas to bring to the conversation. The Pension Landscape has changed. We need to adjust as well!!
Saturday, May 20, 2017 was “Rally Day at the Capitol for Public Education.”
Pictured from left to right: Lonnie Duberstein (REAM President), Curt Hutchens (past REAM President) and Paul Ehrhard (REAM Vice President).
Hello again, members!
A lot has been happening since the 2017 Legislative Session began in January. I will try to give you a synopsis that gives you a sense of where things are at the present time.
It was well into January before we knew who the Legislators named to the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR) would be. House members were named first and the Senate followed less than a week before the first meeting was scheduled. This is of importance as it was a pattern of delay that has continued.
We hosted the Annual Legislative Conference on February 8. We alternate hosting this event with EdMN-Retired. We scheduled it early thinking that getting active was called for. Remember last year’s agenda included the LCPR Chairperson, Sen. Julie Rosen. Days before the event, Sen. Rosen cancelled. One other Republican member, Rep. Tony Albright had agreed to come for a Legislative Question and Answer Session. He did not show up. No apology or explanation was given. Only Democrat, Rep. Paul Thissen came. We learned a lot that day that was helpful, especially from National Retired Teachers Association representative, Tom Nicholls. We learned the extent to which Pensions are under fire nationwide. He made the case for meeting with and conversing with legislators. NRTA Tips about how to do that are available on our REAM website as a link. www.mnream.org.
As the Legislative session has ensued, Commission meetings have allowed testimony on the TRA stakeholders Bill that was collectively developed. Our President and Vice-President testified without Don Leathers and myself. We were told there wasn’t enough time for all of us to speak. We were told that we would have opportunity to testify at a later meeting. As of this writing, that has not happened. Meetings have been cancelled, and as of Easter break, no action on our Bill has been made.
What has happened is that Rep. Albright and Rep. O’Driscoll, (2016 chair), asked for a report on possible measures that could produce savings for the State in the “Course Correction” with TRA that we have proposed. Among those is a PERMANENT ONE Percent COLA, a lowering of the 1.9% multiplier to 1.7% and a PERMANENT 7.5% assumption rate. The COLA part means retirees and future retirees would see the buying power of their Pension going backwards against inflation…Forever. The report was given to the Commission. Little opportunity to respond by stakeholders or hearing have been granted. Many of us have answered that privately. So what should a REAM member do?
It is my hope that you are seeing/hearing that pension involvement is greatly needed. The pattern of delay and inaction from the Party in power is creating considerable concern for retirees and actives alike. Please call, write or email your State Senator and State Representative immediately. Tell them simply…that our Pension is NOT an Entitlement. It is a Benefit that was promised. It was paid for by YOU and your employer, and WE should be able to continue collecting on that Promise. Tell them you expect them to pass the House File #2486 Bill as crafted by TRA and the Retiree stakeholders! We expect promises to be kept.
Thank you…Thank you in advance for your timely involvement!
P.S. REAM members who are PERA Pensioners. . . Your Pension has no proposal before the LCPR this session.
Are you aware of how much your pension has eroded since 2009?
In a Dream Big scenario, I would wish for REAM and public education to have unlimited funds: funds to be able to compete with the many, very well funded, anti-public pension entities that are out to eliminate the defined benefit system on which we depend for retirement security …