Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TRS: Tier One + Two Tier + Tier Three = Three "Tears"

The Tier-One Pension Plan:

The TRS: Investments – 50%, Membership Contributions – 25%, State – 25% (These are approximations).

·         TRS Diversified Investments:  U.S. & international equities, bonds, fixed income, real estate…  (Since 1982, an average return of 9.8%)
·         Membership contributions:  9.4% of salary (teachers have contributed 100% since 1940; approximately $900 million contributed this year to the pension system);
·         School District contributions:  .58%
·         State Contributions:  Illinois has not fully funded the pension system for decades.

This year the State contributed $2.2 billion; however, approximately 2/3 of that total was for debt service (past interest due).  During the last fiscal year, TRS paid out $3.9 billion in benefits but collected $6.8 billion in revenue.

Total liabilities: approximately $84 billion; unfunded liabilities: approximately $40 billion

The Tier-Two Pension Plan:

SB 1946 passed on March 24, 2010 in approximately 10 hours (There was no public policy for this legislature); it was signed into law on April 14, 2010. It began January 2011. 

Note: Tier II members are subsidizing both Tier I and Tier II benefits. In the future, when Tier II members are the significant majority in TRS, the subsidy they pay will cause a reduction in the state's annual contribution. Eventually, the state will not owe any annual contribution to TRS because the members will be paying the entire cost and school districts will be responsible for making up the difference. Furthermore, these teachers will receive a TRS pension that will be less than Social Security; thus, it will be in violation of the Safe Harbor provision of the Social Security Administration, which states that anyone who does not receive Social Security must receive a benefit equal to a Social Security benefit.

Special note: teachers do not receive Social Security; the State of Illinois saves billions of dollars by not having to pay into Social Security. 

SB 1946:
--Minimum eligibility to draw a retirement benefit: age 67 with 10 years of service (age 67 will probably be reduced to 62 (pending HB 3075);
--Salary cap is at $106,800, which will be increased at a rate of less than 3% or ½ of the annual increase in the CPI (Consumer Price Index).  It is not compounded;
--Survivor benefit increased to 66.7%.

Discriminatory Federal Laws:

GPO (Government Pension Offset)
--Reduces spousal survivor benefit.

WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision)
--Reduces any earned Social Security in other jobs because of the state pension benefit.

Current Legislative Proposals:

SB 105/ HB 149 did not get out of committee, though this legislation will most likely emerge in another bill (SB 512):

--Keep the current TRS benefit package, either Tier I or Tier II, but in return the annual payroll contribution by teachers in both tiers would increase, originally proposed at 28% of salary (probably will be 12-14% according to Representative and sponsor Tom Cross);
--Tier I teachers could elect to convert their benefit package to the Tier II structure: a teacher would not be eligible for full retirement benefits until age 67 (or 62?);
--It is estimated that Tier II benefits will be 30 percent less than benefits for a Tier I teacher if final average salary and creditable service time for both are equal.  New Teachers in the Tier II system will not make as much as Social Security recipients.  Their income will be worth 4 – 4.5% and not the 9.4% that they will have contributed during their career (IEA).  Teachers should consider this fact before choosing a Tier II option, if it comes to pass.

Tier-Three Pension Plan:

--A 401(k)-style Defined-Contribution Savings Benefit plan:
--Teachers would pay 6% of their salaries under this plan. If school districts decide to participate in this option, they would match teacher contributions;
--A Defined-Contribution Plan is not a guaranteed pension plan;
--Benefits are based on investment earnings; there are no survivor or disability benefits; investment fees are paid by member.

Sample Letter:

Dear Senator/Representative:

Please vote against any pension reform that will “diminish or impair” our constitutional rights and benefits. It is morally and legally wrong. Moreover, the proposed changes for current teachers will weaken our pension system.  As you are aware, teachers have consistently paid 9.4% of their salary into the pension system, even though the State of Illinois has failed to fully fund the State’s pensions and honor its financial obligations for decades.  Our pension is all that we have for retirement. Thank you,


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1 comment:

  1. Keep hammering, Glen! I admire the way you've taken the lead in this critical battle to save the pension systems from unwarranted attacks.