Texas Senate Receives Testimony From Laura and John Arnold Foundation Vice-President, Josh McGee

The Texas Senate’s Committee on Nominations received testimony today from Josh McGee, who serves as the chair of the Pension Review Board (PRB).

McGee was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to chair the board in November 2015, and has since been working in that role. The Committee on Nominations’ purpose is to decide whether or not to approve Abbott’s nominations to a variety of boards and commissions throughout the state.

McGee received many questions from the committee about his role as Vice-President of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is a Houston-based nonprofit, which is primarily supported by former Enron executive and hedge fund manager, John Arnold. Chief among the Foundation’s goals is public pension reform, with an emphasis on converting public workers to defined contribution plans.

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is a defined benefit plan, and changing it to a defined contribution plan could severely damage benefits for Texas public education retirees. DB plans promise a benefit for life, while the benefits available through DC plans can be outlived. Because 95 percent of Texas school employees do not pay into the federal Social Security program, the TRS DB plan is often their only form of financial security in retirement.

In his testimony to the Senate, McGee said he does not hold any preferences on pension plan design.

“Any type of plan can be designed well or designed poorly,” McGee said. “We want benefit plans that provide workers a secure retirement.”

However, McGee has written many op-eds for the Manhattan Institute, a public policy think-tank. In his op-eds, McGee has shown a strong, consistent preference for defined contribution plans.

Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) questioned McGee about his work and how it might impact his recommendations to the state. Birdwell expressed that many of his constituents, primarily retired teachers, police and firefighters, had a “distinct concern” about McGee’s appointment.

When asked about his ability to separate his work for the Manhattan Institute and the Pension Review Board McGee said, “The expertise I use is the same for both sides… My positions are consistent.”

TRS will be up for review from the Sunset Commission in 2019. The Sunset Commission is responsible for deciding whether to keep open Texas agencies or to combine them with other state agencies. The sunset review may provide the perfect time for defined contribution proponents to lay claim to changing TRS’s plan design.

TRTA and our members must stay vigilant in protecting the TRS defined benefit plan. Since its creation, TRS has never once missed a payment to its annuitants, and we need to keep it that way!

When McGee was announced as the appointment to the Pension Review Board, TRTA expressed its opposition. Based on today’s conversation, it is extremely likely that McGee will be approved as the nomination to the PRB.

We will continue to monitor and update McGee’s appointment as it continues to develop. We would also like to thank senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Kirk Watson (D-Austin), Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), and Borris Miles (D-Houston) for questioning Josh McGee about his position on sustaining defined benefit plans and his role on the PRB.

The March is On to the 64th Annual TRTA Convention

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) from all over the state will be visiting Austin March 27-28 for TRTA’s 64th Annual Convention.

Plans are being finalized for two fun-filled, productive days in Austin, where members will all work toward the same goal: Teamwork! This year’s convention theme, Teamwork is Key, is the perfect sentiment to match TRTA’s drive to succeed as we march forward during this challenging legislative session!

There is no better time to be in Austin! The Texas Legislature is in regular session, discussing the TRS-Care health insurance program and ways to protect the longevity of benefits for our public education retirees and pre-retirees.

The convention will be held at the Hilton on 500 E. 4th Street. Early registration for the convention is now closed. Late registration (on-site) will be available beginning Monday, March 27 at 10:00 a.m. The late registration fee is $45.

TRTA 64th Annual Convention Schedule

TRTA is pleased to release the convention’s schedule of events.

Monday, March 27, 2017

10 AM - 6 PM

Delegate Certification/Registration • 6th Floor, Salon JK Foyer

10 AM - 6 PM

Exhibits • 6th Floor, Salon JK

10 AM   

TRTA Officers Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 401

12 - 1 PM

Texas Retired Teachers Foundation Trustees Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 400

12 - 1 PM

Facilitators Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 402

2:30 - 3:30 PM

TRTA Board of Directors Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 400

3:45 - 4:30 PM

TRTA District Presidents Meeting • 4th Floor, Room 400

4:45 - 5:45 PM

District Caucus Meetings • 4th Floor and 6th Floor, see page 5

5:30 - 6:30 PM

Social Hour • 6th Floor, Salon G Foyer

6:30 PM

Start Seating for Dinner • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

7 PM      

Welcome & Awards Dinner • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

8 AM - 12 PM

Delegate Certification/Registration • 6th Floor, Salon JK Foyer

8 AM - 5 PM

Exhibits • 6th Floor, Salon JK Foyer

8 - 9:15 AM

Texas Retired Teachers Foundation Breakfast • 4th Floor, Salon ABC

9:30 - 10:30 AM

Breakout Sessions I • 4th Floor and 6th Floor, see Breakout Sessions Schedule

10:45 - 11:45 AM

Breakout Sessions II • 4th Floor and 6th Floor, see Breakout Sessions Schedule

12 - 1:30 PM

Legislative Luncheon • 4th Floor, Governor’s Ballroom

2 PM - TBD

House of Delegates • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

TBD

Break (20 minutes) • 6th Floor, Salon FGH Foyer

TBD

Legislative Session • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

TBD

Treasurer Q & A • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

TBD

TRTA Board of Directors Meeting • 6th Floor, Room 602

 

Dinner on your own

Below please see a list of all training and information sessions available on Tuesday, March 28:

BREAKOUT SESSIONS SCHEDULE

Session I • 9:30 – 10:30 AM

President • 4th Floor, Room 406

Second Vice-President/Public Relations • 4th Floor, Room 412

Historian • 6th Floor, Room 615 B

Local Unit Support • 4th Floor, Room 404

Informative and Protective Services • 4th Floor, Room 416 B

Local Unit Treasurer • 4th Floor, Room 410

Texas Retired Teachers Foundation • 6th Floor, Room 615 A

Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) Information Session • 6th Floor, Room 602

Health and Human Services–Aging Service Coordination • 4th Floor, Room 408

Session II • 10:45 – 11:45 AM

First Vice–President/Membership • 4th Floor, Room 406

Secretary • 4th Floor, Room 404

District Treasurer • 6th Floor, Room 615 B

Retirement Education • 4th Floor, Room 410

Community Volunteer Service • 4th Floor, Room 408

Member Benefits • 4th Floor, Room 412

Health Care • 4th Floor, Room 416 B

Utilizing Google Drive Applications • 6th Floor, Room 615 A

Texas Retired School Administrators Annual Meeting • 6th Floor, Room 616 A

Atria: Better This Year • 6th Floor, Room 602

TBD (After House of Delegates)

*Legislative • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

*Treasurer Q & A • 6th Floor, Salon FGH

*Please note, at the conclusion of the House of Delegates on Tuesday, March 28, Legislative Committee Chairman Bill Barnes will host a legislative training session for all who wish to attend. This is a great opportunity to get updates on the 85th Legislative Session, learn the progress of any bills that have been filed, and learn techniques to help you advocate during TRTA’s Day at the Capitol event on March 29. Following the legislative training session will be a Q & A for district and local unit treasurers.

We look forward to seeing our members in Austin March 27-28 for convention, as well as for TRTA Day at the Capitol on March 29. TRTA will release more information about Day at the Capitol in tomorrow’s Inside Line.

Thank You

Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here. Be sure to read our comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions about TRS-Care here.

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