It’s important that you stay informed about what is really happening with your public pension. The following articles were recently published in the Minneapolis and St. Paul papers. They are available online by clicking the links below.
Please review the TRA 2017 Legislative Financial Update for Stakeholders (Retirees) which contains important information that may affect your pension.
Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Room: G-15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Julie A. Rosen
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.
Recently, a letter from REAM was sent to over 80,000 retired public school employees inviting them to join REAM. They all receive a pension income from TRA and/or PERA. As a REAM member you will not be receiving that letter, because you have already made the important decision to be a part of the team to protect public pensions. However, I’d like you to read its message reprinted below, because it reminds us of the important work being done. Knowing that you value the message below, I now encourage you to be a voice of recruitment for the cause. Share this newsletter, and become a REAM cheerleader!
Dear Retired Public School Employee,
This letter is a special and urgent invitation from the REAM Board of Directors encouraging you, and over 80,000 others, to join us in supporting public pensions. Your membership commitment will help strengthen the voice of REAM as we speak out in support of promised public pensions. The time to get involved could hardly be more critical, as defined benefit pensions have increasingly come under attack.
Founded in 1954, the Retired Educators Association of Minnesota (REAM) is an independent, self-governing association of retired school employees who receive their pensions from TRA and/or PERA. REAM volunteers monitor and advocate for your public pension, which is a well-deserved and important benefit that you have earned for your years of service in the field of education. One could easily think of your pension as delayed salary rather than defined benefit.
Our goal is to protect the defined benefit pensions of Minnesota public school employees.
To do this, we monitor the actions of, and provide information to, the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA), the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR), the Minnesota House/Senate and the Governor, in an effort to represent those that have made a career choice of public service.
Those powerful groups, mentioned above, control and vote on your pension …
When was the last time you made contact, and gave input, to any of them?
By joining REAM, your support will help our experienced team make contact for you, speak on your behalf, and keep you informed about pension information. Think of family members and friends that may be following in your career footsteps, along with other current and future Minnesota public school employees. We believe they deserve to have a voice for a safe, secure pension. Our message is extremely clear . . . earned, defined benefit, public pensions are promises that must be kept. You know the importance of that promise, because you know the benefits and value of having a public pension. Together we also know the importance of such a pension for the recruitment and retention of current and future school employees.
When REAM members advocate, and at times testify, legislators frequently ask, “How many people do you represent?” The answer to that question could affect how much interest they have. Think for a moment … if we would be able to answer, “Over 80,000 from nearly every city and town across the state,” how very impressive that reply would be. We are currently closing in on the first 10,000 with over 9,700 members. Numbers do count in the political arena. Make sure that your voice is included and strongly heard.
Joining REAM is easy. Simply return the membership form with your payment, or you may join online at www.mnream.org
Welcome to your hard working REAM Association!
Lonnie Duberstein – REAM President
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.