Extreme Makeover – MRTA Unit Edition

Meeting attendance is a common issue among MRTA Units throughout the state.  The National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) has developed an activity called Extreme Makeover – MRTA Unit Edition to help inspire great Unit meetings.  Attendees of the 2017 MRTA Unit President Summit participated in this activity, below is a summary of what was discussed.

 

March 15 – COLA Panel

The 2017 MRTA Unit President Summit was a great success!  We have received many requests for a follow-up and summary of the COLA Panel section of the day.  This presentation featured three retired superintendents and MRTA Executive Director Jim Kreider summarized the COLA decision made by PSRS/PEERS.  The speakers presented some suggestions on making the system stronger and more responsive to retirees.   The presenters were kind enough to send their basic talking points and we have provided them below, along with a summary from MRTA President-Elect John Pohl.

MRTA Director Jim Kreider – Family Feud COLA Power Point 

John Pohl Summary

Tyler Laney – Notes

Dr. Terry Holder – Notes

Dr. Jim Sandfort – Notes

Articles by Dr. Jim Sandfort Regarding the COLA Decision
Of Beef and Boloney
It is Time to Say Thanks
Play Ball

 

MRTA Day at the Capitol – A Total Success!

President Sandy Applegate

MRTA President Sandy Applegate, a former math teacher, posed a question to attendees at MRTA Day at the Capitol, “I was told it takes an average of eleven seconds to go through the security checks entering the Capitol. If you have 1,200 MRTA members and it takes each of them eleven seconds to go through security, how long will it take to get them all into the Capitol?” Stay tuned for the answer later in our article. As you know, MRTA Legislative Day was cancelled due to new security measures in place at the Capitol. MRTA started planning our 2017 Legislative Day in February 2016, we did not know then that new security measures would be in place. We planned on 15 buses and 1,200 attendees from all corners of the state for a 10:30 rally. When those security measures were put in place in January, we were left with no choice but to cancel. If you are waiting on the answer to President Applegate’s question it would have taken 3.67 hours to get everyone through security. This does not include all the other people entering the Capitol for other reasons and events. It was just logistically impossible.

MRTA members would not take no as an answer; however, due to popular demand we restructured the event. MRTA Capitol Blitz Day and MRTA Day at the Capitol were born! MRTA Capitol Blitz day was planned for those who could not attend our event at the Capitol. Members emailed, called, and wrote their legislators about the issues important to them and to MRTA. MRTA Day at the Capitol was a scaled down version of MRTA Legislative Day. We hoped for 200 attendees, we got over 400! It was a huge success! Senator Scott Sifton, Senator Gina Walsh, and Representative Steve Cookson addressed the crowd and promised they would work to protect retiree pensions and public education. MRTA members left enthused and legislators left better educated on the issues.

“Showing up” in numbers is the reason for the success of MRTA. We sincerely thank each and every one of you who took the time to participate in these events. There is strength in numbers!

Over 400 Attended MRTA Day at the Capitol. The world is run by those who show up!

MRTA’s Legislative Issues of Importance

Click the following link for a printable version 2017 Issues of Importance UPDATED April 11, 2017

Please note – this document will be updated throughout the 2017 Legislative Session.

ISSUES OF IMPORTANCE 2017 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

PRIORITY – MRTA opposes SB 228 (Koenig R-15). Establishes a hybrid retirement plan and requires all new members of the plan to participate in the Defined Contribution Plan (DC) for MOSERS, state employees and elected officials.  This does not include educators at this time.  It is only one amendment away if this bill is not stopped.  Being debated in the Senate.

PRIORITY – MRTA opposes SB 32 (Emery R-31) and SS#2/SCS/SB 313 (Koenig R- 15). These are voucher schemes putting scare tax dollars into private institutions. This legislation will take $50 million from public schools.  Perfected by the Senate

PRIORITY – MRTA opposes SB 141 (Emery R-31).  This act provides that statewide elected officials and members of the General Assembly serving for the first time on or after January 1, 2018 shall participate in a 401(k) defined contribution plan instead of the current defined benefit plan.  On Senate calendar for debate.

PRIORITY – MRTA opposes HCs/HB 634 (Roeber R-34). This legislation allows charter schools in all first class counties in the state affecting 70% of Missouri’s population.  Passed by the House on 3/16.  Currently in Senate Committee.

PRIORITY MRTA supports HB 304 (Pike R- 126) and SB 394 (Romine R-3). This legislation is an MRTA priority and allows pension benefits to “POP UP” after a divorce with the ruling on assets by a court. The bill also allows an extension from 90 days to one year for a retiree to add a beneficiary if remarries. HB 304 was passed by the House on 3/16.  SB 394 has been heard in committee.

PRIORITY – MRTA supports HB 305 (Pike R-126) and SB 441 (Hegeman R-12). This legislation is an MRTA priority that closes the “Kelly Services” loophole requiring every retiree and school district statewide to follow the 550 hour Work After Retirement (WAR) law. HB 305 was voted out of committee DO PASS. SB 441 has been heard in committee.  

PRIORITY – MRTA supports HB 891 (Cookson R-153).  This legislation mandates a 2% COLA for PSRS/PEERS retirees if the CPI is between 0% and 5%.  If the CPI is over 5% the COLA will be 5%. This mirrors the 2011 PSRS/PEERS Stabilization Policy.

 PRIORITY – MRTA supports HB 755 (Cookson R-153). This legislation allows for the salaries of PSRS-PEERS employees to be public record. Currently, PSRS PEERS is the only system in Missouri where they are not public record.

PRIORITY – MRTA opposes HB 619 (Dogan R-98) and SB 409 (Koenig R-15). This legislation changes and lowers the retirement benefits of active Saint Louis City educators at the same time raising their contributions to the system. This would set an extremely bad precedent for all Defined Benefit Plans in Missouri in that the promise when you were hired could be broken.  MRTA is proposing a better version of each of these bills which will include a 2% COLA for St. Louis City retirees – HB 1085 (Walker R-3) which was heard in committee 4/10/2017.

 PRIORITY – MRTA supports full funding of the Foundation Formula and opposes the use of public tax dollars for private schools. The Missouri Constitution mandates adequate funding of K-12 education through HB 2 which requires education funding as the second priority of state expenditures.  The Public School Foundation Formula is currently underfunded by at least $50 million dollars.  This is particularly troublesome for rural schools and inner city schools because a high percentage of their funding comes from the state.

 

20 for 2020 – Your Pension is #8 on Rex’s List!

Your Pension is #8 on Rex’s List Are We Strong Enough?

The Show-Me Institute, a think tank funded by Rex Sinquefield, has listed PSRS/PEERS as #8 on its “20 for 2020 An Agenda for Missouri” report. This report lays out their plan to influence legislation in Missouri through 2020. The item regarding PSRS/PEERS reads,

“8. Move Missouri’s Public School Retirement System (PSRS) to a defined-contribution system.”

You may ask, “I already have a defined benefit plan why should I care?” First, this is bad for public education, it will not keep our best teachers in the classroom. More importantly, for you, it means no more contributions from new hires into the current PSRS/PEERS system. No contributions means the system will eventually run out of money. Where does that leave you? The first item to be cut would be 100% of the COLA we all depend on. We MUST fight this type of attack on Missouri pensions. We currently have over 26,000 MRTA members. Are we strong enough to fight Rex’s billions of dollars?

MRTA is a grassroots lobby organization. This means we are effective because we show up en masse at the Capitol on Legislative Day; and, we contact our legislators when an issue arises. We need you to respond to MRTA Calls to Action. We need you to write, call, and/or visit your legislators this year. We need each and every MRTA member to stay involved! We need each and every MRTA member to renew their MRTA membership and to ask someone to join MRTA today!

20 for 2020 complete

The Threats to Your Pension are Real!

Pew Trust and the Laura and John Arnold Trust are in Missouri and they have their sights set on your pension. They have hired three lobbyists who have been actively working in Jefferson City to change Missouri’s educator retirement fund from a Defined Benefit Plan (DB) to a Defined Contribution Plan (DC). We must be vigilant!

Meredith Williams, the Executive Director of the National Council on Teacher Retirement (NCTR), was recently quoted as saying, “If Pew and the Arnold Foundation come knocking on your state’s door, offering their so called “objective” assistance in reforming pensions, I hope these experiences in Alabama and Kentucky will be used to show your legislators what is really going on.”

Pew and the Arnold Foundation have been successful in Kentucky, the Kentucky Legislature adopted a cash balance approach in lieu of the DB plan in 2013. Tom Krebs of the Alabama Media Group (AL.com) reports that, “The Laura and John Arnold Foundation and their surrogates, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, have tried over the last two years to convert the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s defined benefit approach to a cash balance plan as part of a ‘nationwide crusade against public pension funds.’ The Alabama Legislature seemingly is bound and determined to hand over Alabama’s pension funds of $32 billion to the same Wall Street firms that brought us the financial crisis of 2008.” Krebs goes on to say that the legislature is acting in reliance on, “…volunteered and tainted ‘research reports’ from the Pew Charitable Trusts” among others. This is an attempt, in Krebs’ opinion, “…to gain access to bribes, kickbacks, influence peddling, campaign contributions and pork barrel politics.”

Click here for What to Expect When Pew and the Arnolds Come Calling

Comments from MRTA Executive Director Kreider:

Emboldened after the 2016 elections Michigan lawmakers pushed to move public educators from a DB plan to a DC plan in a lameduck session of the legislature, they were not successful due to policemen and firemen joining forces with educators to oppose the legislation. Are we strong enough to defend our pension system from these types of attacks? The world is run by those who show up! Show up with MRTA!

MRTA Day at the Capitol!

As you may be aware, MRTA had 15 buses reserved and over 1,000 members who planned to attend the 2017 MRTA Legislative Day to be held February 15th. DUE TO NEW SECURITY MEASURES/METAL DETECTORS instituted on January 9th, our event had to be CANCELED. There was just no way to get 1,000 retirees inside the Capitol without hours of waiting; and nowhere to park 15 buses to keep people out of the cold.

The MRTA legislative leaders from across the state met at the MRTA office Monday, January 23rd.  They decided DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND from MRTA members across the state, we are announcing a much downsized version of MRTA Legislative Day 2017 –  MRTA DAY AT THE CAPITOL!  We hope you can join us.  Details are below.  If you cannot join us, we are still planning on our MRTA Capitol Blitz day as well.  This will be an email and phone call blitz on February 15.  Information on the Capitol Blitz will be available soon.

When – Wednesday, February 15th at 10:30 a.m.  Please remember to allow enough time to park and to enter the Capitol. Getting through security will take anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes depending on the lines. It is just like airport security so dress accordingly and leave purses and other nonessential items in the trunk of your car. Identification is NOT required to enter.

RSVP – You must RSVP to the MRTA office by calling toll free 1-877-366-6782 so we can make sure we have enough material for every one who will be attending.  Please RSVP by February 10th.

Make an Appointment with your Legislators – If you plan to attend, we encourage you to contact your Representative and Senator today to make an appointment to meet with them on February 15. Click here to find your legislators and their contact information.

Parking – There is parking around the Capitol building.  Click here for a map of all public parking lots around the Capitol Complex.

Entering the Building – There are two entrances into the Capitol.  The first is the main entrance on the first floor in the carriage tunnel on the south side of the building.  The second entrance is on the west side of the building, take the stairs to up to the first floor entrance.

Registration – When you arrive, find the MRTA information tables in the first floor Rotunda area.  We will provide you with our “Issues of Interest” which is information on current legislation.  We will also provide you with information on the locations of legislators’ offices.  Please know who your legislators are before you arrive!  Click here to find your legislators.

What to Wear – Wear RED!  Also, to help keep security lines moving please leave purses and other non-essential items in the trunk of your car. Identification is NOT required to enter.

Meals – Meals are on your own.  Lunch will not be provided. Sorry!!!  Click here for a list of restaurants in the downtown area. 

Reimbursement – MRTA will pay mileage of 27.5 cents per mile for cars with 3 or more people.  We want to encourage carpooling.

2017 MRTA LEGISLATIVE DAY FEBRUARY 15th CANCELLED!

2017 MRTA LEGISLATIVE DAY FEBRUARY 15th HAS BEEN CANCELLED!

The decision to cancel MRTA Legislative Day has been made due to increased security measures by the new Administration. These new security measures present complications and logistical problems for getting over 1,000 members through security and into the Capitol building in a timely manner. There are only three entrances with metal detectors with only room inside the Capitol for a small group of people. We cannot ask our members to stand outside in line waiting to go through security for any length of time, particularly if the weather is bad.

To add insult to injury, all materials and meals/equipment must also be screened. We were told NO EXCEPTIONS! Also, the Governor has signed an Executive Order prohibiting gifts such as a chicken lunch to Executive Branch employees. The House and Senate are expected to follow suit very soon. We are so disappointed with the lack of access to the Capitol that is now in place. This would have been our 7th MRTA Legislative Day.

WHAT NOW??

February 15th will be our MRTA Capitol Blitz Day! We are asking every member of MRTA to write, e-mail, or call their State Representative and State Senator on Wednesday, February 15th. Every MRTA member is asked to respond to this “CALL TO ACTION” all on February 15th. We will show our STRENGTH IN NUMBERS through their emails and phone lines. Elected official contact information and information on issues of importance with suggested text will be sent out via e-mail around the first week of February. We are asking everyone to SPREAD THE WORD to fellow retirees. Please call the MRTA office at 1-877-366-6782 to add your e-mail address if we do not have it. Let’s give them some L.I.P. – Loud, Insistent, and Persistent!

MO Public Pension Exemption

Married couples with Missouri adjusted gross income less than $100,000 and single individuals with Missouri adjusted gross income less than $85,000, may deduct up to 100% of their public retirement benefits, to the extent the amounts are included in their federal adjusted gross income.  Click here for MO-A form.

  • The total public pension exemption was limited to $36,976 for each spouse for the 2016 tax year.
  • Married couples with Missouri adjusted gross income greater than $100,000 and single individuals with Missouri adjusted gross income greater than $85,000, may qualify for a partial exemption.
  • There is no age requirement for eligibility.

Visit www.dor.mo.gov for more information regarding eligibility. Or you may contact the Missouri Department of Revenue at (573) 751-3505, email income@dor.mo.gov or consult a tax professional for more information.

December 12th COLA Report

COLA REPORT

REPORT ON DECEMBER 12th PSRS-PEERS BOARD OF TRUSTEE MEETING

The last meeting of the year of the PSRS-PEERS Board of Trustees was held on December 12th in Jefferson City.  Representing MRTA in attendance were MRTA Legislative Chairperson Linda Greeson, Shirley Ross of Lafayette County,  Micheal Stearley of Fredericktown, Warren Solomon of Cole County, and Jim Kreider, Executive Director MRTA.

The first item of business was the return-on-investment as of November 30th.  It is 3.1%.  We were expecting a better return on investment as the stock market reaches near 20,000 points, a record high.

The PSRS-PEERS Board decided on several issues of importance to MRTA. One was the MRTA mailing privilege allowed once a year by PSRS-PEERS since 1984. The Board eliminated this privilege.  This was of great disappointment to MRTA.  This issue was brought up after MRTA voiced our disapproval of the new COLA policy enacted on June 14th.  The new policy eliminates the COLA (0%) if the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is below 2%, above 2% CPI the COLA is 2%. MRTA and our 26,000 members will work hard on future board elections and board appointments in the future.  MRTA must be listened to and respected for what we do in promoting and protecting our educator retirement systems here in Missouri.  This action shows a lack of appreciation for our work. We are PSRS-PEERS’s soldiers on the legislative battlefield.  They have hurt their own army.

The most positive decision was enacting a resolution stating the COLA policy would be reviewed every year versus every four years. MRTA put forth this idea.  MRTA also suggested that the resolution address the reinstatement of the COLA as the priority of the Board versus a contribution reduction for employees and school districts.  This was not brought forward.  This is concerning because the current funding status of the PSRS-PEERs system is now, after the COLA reduction, 84.8% and the suggested actuarial contribution rate now stands at 26%.  That is 13% from the employee and 13% from the school district.  The board voted in September to leave the contribution rate at 29%.  That is 14.5% from the employee and 14.5% from the schools district.  They could have reduced the contribution rate and left the COLA reduction in policy.  PSRS-PEERS Director Steve Yoakum stated at the Board meeting, although not stated in the resolution, that it will be PSRS-PEERS’s priority to reinstate the COLA.

Another positive presentation was the systems’ detailed report on the measures being taken to avoid any cyber security problems.  It is now estimated that each full identity record of an individual is worth $1200 to $1300 on the black market.  PSRS-PEERS stated that in September 2016 they had 3,574,881 attacks on their system data from Korea.  So far the system has protected your data.  Our hat is off to the cyber security team.

Some MRTA members had voiced they wanted the PSRS-PEERS Board members’ e-mail addresses posted on the PSRS-PEERS website.  The Board brought this up.  After quite a bit of discussion, the decision was made not to post the e-mail addresses of elected and appointed board members on the PSRS-PEERS website.  Again, disappointing.  All e-mail to the Board must go through the director or staff first. If you have a comment or want to contact a PSRS-PEERS Board member write Director Steve Yoakum, SYoakum@psrsmo.org.

The meeting was adjourned for a closed session of the board.