MFPE victories for retired members (and all members who will be retired someday!)

MFPE has worked tirelessly for years to protect and enhance public employee and teacher retirement assets and benefits. We have the duty and opportunity to do so.

To date, despite constant economic and political challenges, we have maintained and improved defined benefit plans for the vast majority of folks who work and retire in the Montana public sector.

In 1993, we helped write and lobby through the Legislature a proposed constitutional amendment that in 1994 won overwhelming voter support. That amendment (now Article 8, Section 15) secures public employee retirement assets for retirement and nothing else. It also requires that our defined benefit retirement systems be actuarially funded. Huge.

In 1997 & 1999, we led two successful legislative efforts to secure a guaranteed annual benefit adjustment (GABA) for retirees in the Public Employees‘ Retirement System and Teachers‘ Retirement System, respectively. For over a decade, it has no longer been true that the first retirement benefit check retired public employees or teachers receive is the best check they will ever receive.

In 2007, we won entirely by ourselves a 1% increase in university contributions to faculty retirement accounts for faculty enrolled in TIAA-CREF — a defined contribution plan. We have a lot more to do here. University faculty, condemned as they are to a grossly under-contributed 401(k) plan, graphically illustrate why we fight so hard to preserve our defined benefit plans.

In the past three legislative sessions, tea party politics have seriously challenged our ability to protect and enhance public employee and teacher retirement. Working together, we have held steady.

In 2011, with help from Governor Brian Schweitzer, we defeated two bills meant to terminate defined benefit plans in PERS and TRS. Both bills would have condemned our existing defined benefit plans to actuarial death and provided new public employees and teachers significantly lesser retirement benefits 30 years or so down the road.

In 2013, with help from Governor Steve Bullock and with major MFPE leadership and collaboration with stakeholders, two landmark bills were passed to get TRS (HB377) and PERS (HB454) on the right financial track.

The legislature needlessly amended both bills to include changes to GABA for both current and new members. We litigated the reduction in TRS GABA and supported litigation on the PERS reduction —and we won on both counts.

Today, when thousands of Montanans in the private sector have little in the way of secure employer-provided retirement benefits and when even Social Security is under attack, it takes concerted work to justify and fund the retirement plans Montana public employees and teachers have earned and deserve as a partial reward for the work they do, work that matters.

We will make adjustments in our defined benefit plans, but we will NOT surrender the security and core benefits they provide.

We will need the concerted help of all our members, active and retired. Every member has the same “duty and opportunity.” Thank you for your involvement!