Kentuckians love basketball and we love March Madness. This year March Madness arrived a day early in Frankfort. On Wednesday, February 28 KRTA members filled committee rooms and the hallways of the Capitol Annex. Reporters who have covered the General Assembly for over 30 years said they have never seen a crowd like that for a committee meeting. Your advocacy is making a difference not only for retired teacher benefits but for the future of public education and our kids. I am proud to serve as the Executive Director for KRTA and ecstatic at the advocacy being shown by our membership. THANK YOU for engaging in the political process but also realize, we have a lot of work ahead to protect our retirement benefits. Things will move quickly in the remaining days of the General Assembly, so stay connected- we may need you to visit Frankfort in the coming days. Flick Fornia testified during the committee meeting a nd was brought to Kentucky by KRTA and the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition. Teachers, fire fighters, police officers, state and county employees must stay united in this fight for our promised benefits. An outline of what Mr. Fornia shared can be found at the following link: http://teachfrankfort.org/?p=1148
What we know as of today: It is expected the State and Local Government Committee will meet again sometime next week to discuss SB 1. There probably won't be a tremendous amount of notice for the committee time and location. Our concern with SB 1 continues to be the reduction of the Cost of Living Adjustment. Kentucky's retired teachers were promised by the inviolable contract to receive a 1.5% COLA each year. Reducing it to 1% until TRS reaches 90% funded is unacceptable. If the system reaches 90% in 20 years the average retiree would lose $65,000, if it reaches 90% in 25 years the average retiree would lose $67,000. Please call your legislator and let them know that SB 1 places most of the burden of bailing out Frankfort on the backs of retired teachers. The majority of the savings in SB 1 is a result of stealing from retired teachers.
The House of Representatives passed HB 200 on Thursday afternoon. It provides $59.5 million from the General Fund in 2019 for the state’s portion of health insurance premiums of retired teachers who have not reached the Medicare eligibility, which the governor’s budget did not fund. However, in 2020 the House budget requires TRS to make this contribution out of its medical fund. That fund is the result of contributions made by teachers and school districts, and a component of Senate Bill 1 would have active teachers pay more if the medical fund falls below 25%. The medical fund is currently funded at 26.7%. This is setting a terrible precedent that we have seen before. HB 200 also eliminates the dependent subsidy.
On a positive note we are pleased that HB 200 fully funds public pensions and realizes the need for additional revenue. Representative Rudy has stated that his plans to at least discuss the possibility of Tax Reform as early as next week. We applaud his leadership and the House of Representatives for fully funding TRS restoring many of the Governor's cuts to public education. It is time for our legislators to realize they cannot move the state forward without additional revenue.
Please call, write or email your legislator and let them know:
1) The reduction of the COLA in SB1 is not only illegal it unfairly places the burden of bailing out the past failures of the General Assembly on the backs of retired teachers.
2) Thank House members for the realization that the state needs additional revenue and restoring under 65 health insurance but remind them that raiding the TRS medical fund is setting a bad precedent. The General Assembly needs to meet their financial obligations.