A Message from your NCRGEA President
Now that the dust is settling on the 2016 state elections, your NCRGEA Board has already begun to work on your behalf with the legislature. Throughout December, Board members have been writing, calling, and visiting legislators, congratulating the ones who won and welcoming back the ones returning. But most important the message has been two-fold: Thank you for remembering the state retirees in 2016, and please continue to support us in 2017. We also thank them for continuing to fund the state health plan and remind them that the defined benefit retirement plan is still one of the recruitment tools for future government employees.
During 2016, the Lake Case went before a judge, and NCGREA continued to provide funds to insure the plaintiffs – government retirees – could put forth the best argument to protect their promised health care benefits after retirement. When the state wanted to downgrade the retirees’ health benefit from and 80/20 plan to a 70/30 plan, some retirees sued, their position being that they were promised free health care at the 80/20 level and any downgrade would be a breach of contract. Not only did NCRGEA financially support this case, but several Board members attended two of the final hearings. As of this time, the judge has ruled in the retirees’ favor, though there are still some details, such as settlement, to be resolved.
I received a much-appreciated letter from a municipality retiree reminding me that county and municipal retirees are in a different category from state retirees and are often at the mercy of local economic shifts. We understand that local governments struggle even to keep current employees’ income competitive, and that to raise the retiree benefit could require an increase in taxes – at least until the retirement fund starts to generate the returns predicted during rosier times. But these retirees, like state retirees, spent a lifetime providing necessary services and must be remembered.
Toward that end, in an unprecedented show of cooperation and shared mission, the NCRGEA Executive Director and a Board representative were invited to meet with their counter parts in the League of Municipalities and County Government Association to discuss mission, goals, and agendas. This is a very important development and we will do all we can to maintain this communication and relationship. In addition, we continued our practice of having an information booth at the League of Municipalities’ annual conference in Raleigh. We spoke to many mayors, council members and managers from across the state, reminding them all that their retirees need their support.
One of our most important goals for 2017 is to meet with and cement a relationship with the new state treasurer. During the campaign, Folwell met with our Board and showed a clear grasp of the issues facing retirees, and we are looking forward to hearing his plans for the retirement and health insurance funds.
Because the NCRGEA is an association that exists only for its members, we welcome any ideas, suggestions, or other input from you. Best of luck for a happy new year!