Many members tell us they really do want to help achieve OREA legislative goals, but they’re uncomfortable in communicating – either face-to-face or in writing – with their lawmakers. They say they don’t know what to say.
This reluctance to communicate is not uncommon. It can be overcome with some suggested messages, followed by practice. Try using some of the following examples as a way of putting together your own thoughts for effective interaction with your legislators in the state House of Representatives and Senate. Pretty soon, your fears will be long gone.
“I continue to hear from many sources the rumor that the legislature will consider taking action in the 2015 session to change the Teacher’s Retirement System defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. I am strongly opposed to such a move. TRS is doing very well financially at the current time, and is on an 11-year time frame to become 100% funded. Please do not mess with TRS.”
“As a member of the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association, I strongly support my organization’s position in opposition to consolidating the Teachers’ Retirement System Board of Trustees with other state pension system boards. TRS is very well managed by its Board, and it gets excellent financial advice from its investment consultants, evidenced by a top 1 percentile national ranking on investment returns. It would not make sense to risk hundreds of millions of investment dollars just to save a few million in administrative and personnel expenses through consolidation.”
“I hear that the state legislature, due to cuts in the personal income tax and the decline in energy revenues, will have far less money for next year’s budget than the current budget. That could also affect dedicated revenues going to the Teachers’ Retirement System. It would be made even worse if the legislature tries to re-direct any income tax, sales tax and use tax revenues away from TRS to some other program of government. Please leave TRS revenues alone. TRS is headed toward 100% funding in as few as 11 years. Please don’t rob TRS of needed revenues, as was done many years ago.”
“The cost of a funeral keeps going up and up. Please consider increasing the death benefit paid to the beneficiary of a retired educator from its current $5,000. Thank you.”
“Bills have been introduced this year to start the process for granting a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to retired educators and other state retirees. Please support these bills as they make their way through the legislative process. It’s been since 2008 that retired educators received a 2% COLA, when other state retirees received 4%. Inflation has reduced a retired educator’s purchasing power by more than 15% during that time. A COLA would not only be good for retired educators, but for the Oklahoma economy, too.”
“Most state retirement systems provide voting representation on retirement boards to the various organizations representing retirees. The only one that does not is the Teachers’ Retirement System. There are good people doing conscientious work at TRS, but hearing the voice of retired educators through the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association would add an important perspective. Please support legislation allowing OREA to designate a voting member of the TRS Board of Trustees. Let the voice of the retired educator be heard!”
“As a former Oklahoma public educator, I am saddened by the low funding of public education at all levels in our state. I am particularly concerned that our teachers in the preK-12 schools have not had a pay increase in almost a decade. Schools are experiencing great difficulty in recruiting teachers. Young people don’t want to become teachers in Oklahoma anymore, while others are leaving for higher paying jobs and more respect in other states. Thanks goodness for the thousands of good ones that remain, but they will be gone someday. What then? Please reverse this trend by increasing funding for public education, and giving teachers a much needed pay raise.”
“It’s no secret, health insurance premiums continue to go up for everyone, including retired educators. In the late 1980’s, retirees began receiving a $75 monthly health insurance subsidy. It was raised by $30 a little over a decade later, but has not gone up since. In the meantime, the monthly cost of health insurance premiums has risen by approximately 600% for pre-Medicare retirees and a similar percentage for those covered by Medicare. Thank goodness for having access to health insurance, but ever-increasing premiums may prevent retired educators from having the critical coverage they need. Please support legislation to increase the premium subsidy for retired educators.”