Dear ORP faculty and all Higher Ed. Leaders:
The Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) bill (S1173) needs your immediate support. Formal sessions of the Legislature ended on July 30. Right now, our ORP bill remains in limbo. You are receiving this message because either you or many of your ORP faculty colleagues are in need of the retirement security that this legislation would provide. Many faculty who are now tenured want the opportunity for an informed choice about their retirement options. Please read the email below and act immediately to move this legislation forward.
ORP BILL IN LIMBO – IN JEOPARDY AGAIN:
Since my ORP action alert of July 9, 2010, little has changed. Our ORP bill has simply moved from one committee to another. S1173 now awaits action in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. ORP faculty from across the Commonwealth need to lobby in unison to move this bill out of this Committee and to the Senate floor for a vote. Whether you have contacted your Senator before or not, the time for our collective action is now. Lobby your Senators this week.
THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS and INFORMAL SESSIONS :
Although the state legislature ended formal sessions on 7/30/10, legislators are still doing business. Though passing legislation during informal sessions is not typical and often risky, since one objection can get in the way of forward movement of this bill, enactment during this time is legitimate and can happen. It is also the only hope left for S1173 – an initiative that is the culmination of more than 5 years of research, planning, grassroots organizing, and lobbying. Your lobbying efforts to date have already generated much bi-partisan support for S1173, so enactment is indeed possible, but we must lobby together. The power is in the hands of the Senate Ways & Means Chair to move this bill – or not. It is in our collective power to get our Senators to convince him to do the right thing.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
* Ask your State Senator to support S1173 and to place a call to the Senate Chair of Ways & Means (Sen. Panagiotakos) to move this bill forward.
* Email your Senator first; then follow this with a phone call. If you can do only one or the other, make a phone call. Be sure to find out your Senator’s position on this bill and if s/he will contact Chairman Panagiotakos. It is your right to know where your elected officials stand on legislation – and our responsibility to find that out.
* Little time is left for action on this bill. Urge every one of your ORP faculty to heed this message and respond accordingly. Chapter leaders please make calls to legislators in support of your ORP colleagues.
* Email me if you learn of any resistance to this ORP campaign, especially if it is coming from any of the key Senators identified on the attached list.
MESSAGE TO SENATORS:
ORP bill S1173 needs support today. This bill currently sits in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and needs to be moved to the Senate floor for a vote. Appeal to Senators to support this bill by contacting Senate Ways & Means Chair Steven Panagiotakos to move this bill out of the committee with a favorable recommendation. If Senators have already contacted this Chair regarding this bill, ask if they would do so once again. Chairman Panagiotakos still needs some persuading. Consider the key points below.
KEY TALKING POINTS:
Though it is important to state that ORP bill S1173 is about retirement fairness and the opportunity for a fully informed choice on state retirement options, the emphasis needs to be on the points below. They currently carry the most weight in the Legislature. Per usual, tailor these points to your own circumstances:
* Portability and Tenure: The Optional Retirement Plan was established to provide portability for Higher Education faculty with transient lifestyles and for those who had not yet established tenure. This bill gave such faculty the opportunity to choose a retirement plan that would follow them wherever they chose to work. However, once faculty were tenured and wanted to remain employed at their college or university, no option was available for them to switch to the more secure state retirement plan – the State Employees Retirement System (SERS).
* Pressure to choose quickly: The 90 day irrevocable ORP enrollment policy is problematic. Many faculty were encouraged by HR to sign up for the ORP immediately though little information was provided on the SERS. Some states with similar plans have sign-up periods of two years or more; some extend the deadline for making a retirement plan choice until the faculty tenure process is completed.. In Massachusetts the time period for enrollment is limited and doest not support the retirement needs of tenured faculty.
* Inadequate Retirement Security: The ORP offers no retirement safety net for higher education employees and will be especially punitive to second-career faculty with Social Security earnings. ORP faculty will lose significant portions of their own or their spouses’ retirement earnings because SS earnings will be diminished by their pension. Many faculty were told these offsets would not apply if they enrolled in the ORP instead of the SERS. Many ORP faculty will be forced to work well beyond retirement age to make ends meet or may have to turn to welfare upon retirement.- .
* Economic arguments: This legislation would be at no cost to the state.
o The state would benefit from the great infusion of cash into its Pension Fund. ORP members would be required to pay back all monies deposited to their ORP accounts plus interest on their ORP contributions.
o The State would no longer be required to allocate a 5 percent contribution on salaries to ORP enrollees who switched to the SERS. No such contribution is made to the Pension Fund for SERS enrollees, so this would. be an important savings to the state.
o The numerous ORP faculty who would face inadequate support from their ORP accounts upon retirement would have to turn to the state for basic survival needs – and thereby drain state coffers.
o Preventing ORP faculty from transferring to the SERS could impact the vitality and integrity of public colleges and universities. Tenured faculty would be more easily lured to the private sector or to other states where retirement security was ensured. Recruitment of highly qualified faculty would be more challenging.
* Compliance with IRS Code: S1173 has been reviewed by tax and pension experts and revised to ensure its compliance with the Internal Revenue Service code. This proposed redraft of the bill now awaits review by the Senate Ways & Means Committee.
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR SENATORS:
* To find out who your State Senator is, go to: www.wheredoivotema.com
* To send an email to your senator, go to: http://www.mass.gov/legis/memmenus.htm
* To reach your Senator by phone, call the main State House number (617-722-2000) and ask to be connected to your Senator.
* Politics is a two-way street: Please be sure to thank Senators and their staff for their time, and thank those who have given support to S1173 already. The Senators (and staff) listed below deserve a special thank you for their leadership and support with our ORP Campaign. Consider a thank you call, even if you live in another district: Joan Menard (Staff: Tony), Fred Berry (Staff: Beth), Marc Pacheco (Staff: Amanda), Steve Tolman (Staff: Jenny), and Stan Rosenberg (Staff: Mark).
* An ORP Purpose Statement (with a list of S1173 misconceptions) and
* A Background and Rationale for S1173
* A list of key Senators ( Be sure to contact them if they are “yours” because of their respective leadership roles in the Senate. Their vocal support with the Senate Ways & Means Chair could make a difference in this campaign.)
Thanks, once again, to all of you who have worked so hard on this bill. Please continue this lobbying effort and act in your own behalf today.