TRTA Legislative Update No. 63 Legislative Session 81 By Tim Lee, Executive Director.


Retirees Rebuffed, Again: Governor Perry Picks New TRS Board Chairman
Almost nine months ago, Governor Rick Perry tasked Mr. Linus Wright to serve as Chairman of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees. At that time, the pension fund was reeling from huge market losses due to the world economic crisis, the Texas Legislature was asking pointed questions about TRS Board decisions (including leasing office space, investment decisions, the choice of fiduciary counsel, etc.), and there was a general sense of uncertainty about the pension fund’s organizational direction. In a smart move, Governor Perry looked to Mr. Linus Wright to step in as Chairman of the TRS Board and help see the fund through those difficult circumstances. What qualified Mr. Wright to lead the pension fund during such a strained time was the fact that he came on board as a seasoned, stable and trustworthy public servant with a career spent in public education. As many of you know, Mr. Wright is the public education retiree representative (the one and only public education retiree representative) on the TRS Board. Now, though, Governor Perry has evidently felt it appropriate to transition TRS leadership yet again. After a short stint as chairman, Mr. Wright is reportedly being removed from his role and Mr. David Kelly (a relatively new TRS Board member) is said to be the new chairman. To his credit, Mr. Kelly has shown himself to be a strong supporter of public education retirees and has always made positive comment about TRTA and its role as an advocacy organization for TRS retirees. TRTA members should NOT misunderstand this criticism of Governor Perry’s decision as a knock against Mr. Kelly. His actions thus far as a TRS Trustee have been very positive and much appreciated. TRTA expects that his role as TRS Chairman should be equally supportive of retired and active TRS members. TRTA is not being critical of the TRS Board of Trustee, either. These dedicated

TRTA is not being critical of the TRS Board of Trustee, either. These dedicated volunteers are working hard to protect your pension fund and improve its financial condition. The issue that TRTA is raising has more to do with how Governor Perry seems to be going out of his way to diminish retiree involvement on the TRS Board. As many of you remember, Governor Perry vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have added another TRS retiree on the Board of Trustees. This veto was in jarring contrast to the Governor’s 2006 campaign promise to TRTA members that he would support such legislation. Now, the Governor has decided new leadership is needed for the TRS Board of Trustees. TRTA’s question is “ Why?” Does Mr. Wright’s term end this month? No. Did Mr. Wright say or do something that created an undue hardship for the pension fund? No. Did Mr. Wright say that he no longer wanted to serve as TRS Board of Trustees Chairman? No! So, why is Governor Perry interested in changing leadership for the pension trust fund? The pension fund has been operating in a very proficient manner, most evident in the overall value of the pension trust fund. In February 2009, the fund’s value was around $70 bilion. Now, the fund value is around $88 billion. TRTA is not suggesting that Mr. Wright single-handedly brought the fund to this point, but his leadership decidedly empowered the TRS staff to do what was needed to help the pension system recover, and he kept the TRS Board focused on the bigger picture throughout the process. Mr. Wright has worked dutifully to protect the TRS pension trust fund. He served faithfully in the best interests of all TRS members (both retirees and actives). Now, however, the Governor sees fit to dismiss his work without explanation. Public education retirees deserve to know more about the reasons behind this decision. Why is it that a greater voice through an additional annuitant, or a position of leadership as the TRS retiree’s Board Chairmanship are realities that this Governor chooses to deny to public education retirees? TRTA is concerned about the Governor Perry’s actions in relation to the TRS Board. The bottom line is this: public education employees and retirees deserve to know that the people leading their pension fund are 100 percent committed to the preservation of the traditional defined benefit retirement plan TRS currently provides. Serving the interests of TRS members takes priority over the desire of any elected official,

business relationship, or other such distraction that may cause those in power to take advantage of the trust fund for any personal or special interest gain. TRTA and our 70,000-plus members are watching all of this very closely. Other TRS News Last year, the TRS Board initiated a program called the “Fall Report Card” tour. This program will return to various locations around the state and will provide an opportunity for TRS retirees to meet and interact with the pension trust fund’s leaders and staff. So far, the dates and locations are the only ones announced, but TRTA will continue to report the dates and locations of other meetings as they are announced.
Friday, November 6, 2009

10:00 am to Noon San Angelo ISD Board Room 1621 Universary Ave. San Angelo, TX
Friday, November 6, 2009

2.30 pm to 4:30 pm Region 14 ESC, Taylor Room 1850 Highway 351 Abilene, TX
Friday, November 13, 2009

10:00 to Noon W. G. Thomas (Birdville) Coliseum 6108 Broadway Ave. Halton City, TX Topics: to be discussed: Trust Fund Status Investment Policy Portfolio Review Economic Indicators Response to Current Environment 2009 TRS-Related Legislation Health Benefit Programs Long-Term Care Communication Initiatives Board of Trustees Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers Thank you for your continued support and membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association!

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