Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHERS' RETIREMENT SYSTEM CONTRIBUTIONS.
Disclaimer: The following JOINT FAVORABLE Report is prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for purposes of information, summarization and explanation and does not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill aims to alleviate some of the financial, emotional, and mental stress, dissatisfaction, & anxiety that educators are feeling. Specifically, this bill reduces the tax contribution rate to the Teachers' Retirement System from 7% to 6% of their annual salary.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY: none
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Testimony of Donald E. Williams, Jr. Executive Director of the Connecticut Education Association:
The CEA supports House Bill 5430 and appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with the committee.
1. Teachers were singled out for the largest per capita tax increase—an average of about $700 per teacher. The dollars collected by the state were not used to offset the state's unfunded liability in the teacher retirement fund, but rather were used to reduce the state's contribution to the fund.
2. The state and teachers agreed to jointly fund teacher retirement many years ago. Teachers have always kept their commitment. Until 2007, the state failed to keep its promise, and underfunded teacher's retirement for decades.
3. Teachers have been paying more than their fair share for decades. They have paid six percent of their salary since 1993—a much greater share toward their pension than in many other states for that length of time.
4. Teachers do not receive Social Security, and this has saved the state and municipalities billions of dollars because neither towns nor the state have had to pay 6 percent of each teacher's salary toward Social Security.
5. Teachers have already lost income at the local level through significant concessions on their health insurance. A typical teacher has insurance through a health savings account with a high deductible. A teacher typically pays between 15 and 25 percent of the premium.
6. There is a better, fairer way to address the state's unfunded liability for Teacher Retirement. It is not to unfairly tax teachers more, but rather to meet the state's obligation in a way discussed by the Teacher Retirement System Viability Commission—placing the State Lottery into the retirement fund. I have attached my testimony on this topic before the Public Safety and Security Committee to today's testimony.
David Buller, Math and Computer Science Teacher, Madison Educator: For 15 years prior to becoming a teacher, Buller worked in Information Technology. Despite the fact that he would be making ¼ of what he was used to making, he made the leap and has enjoyed every minute. But he expressed that he feels the state of CT Legislators do not place value on him as an educator. He feels like teachers have been “vilified” and made to look as though they are to blame for the financial hardships the state is experiencing and that it is not only unfair, but it is unethical.
Lisa Achee, Canton Educator / Judith Adamcyk, Retired Educator / Barbara Allen, Danbury Educator:
The above people testified:
● Teachers have always paid their fair share into their retirement.
● The problem of unfunded liability is due to decades of underpayment by the state, not by teachers
● Increasing the payroll tax from 6 to 7 percent is not really a 1% increase–it is a 16.6 percent increase in what teachers are required to pay
● No other group of Connecticut citizens saw a higher per capita tax increase in the budget last year, approximately $700 per teacher. This is unfair and should be rolled back
Cynthia Alberts, Plainfield Educator: Alberts testified in support of HB 5430 suggesting that the current payroll tax targets only one group of professionals and that this burden should be shared. To quote Alberts, “Representatives and Senators need to make the Governor see that our tax money needs to benefit all, not just the large cities that contribute the least percentage.”
Diane Alicea, Bridgeport Educator: Alicea expressed her support HB 5430 stating that teachers have been faithfully paying into retirement their entire careers only to have it spent for other things.
Carl Amato, New Beginnings Educator: Amato wrote in support of the bill, expressing that teaching is a high stress, high burnout field; and with the dangers faced on a daily basis, retention will become even more difficult.
Joshua Anderson, North Haven Educator: Strongly opposes the increase of payroll taxes on teachers.
Jennifer Andrea, New Milford Educator: Jennifer feels teachers are being “assaulted” and that they are the only hope for a secure future for America.
Karen Anger, Mansfield Educator: Anger wrote in support of this bill, encouraging legislators to decrease payroll tax back to 6%. Anger feels that the tax increase is “unfair” and that they are being punished for the state's financial mismanagement.
Debbie Antoinetti, West Hartford Educator: Antoinetti wrote in support of the bill.
Steven Archibald, East Hampton Educator: Archibald wrote in support of HB 5430 stating powerfully in his conclusion, “I do not at all mind paying my fair share of taxes. I just don't like to have my profession singled out. Thank you.”
Charleen Ashby, Easton Educator: Ashby testifies in support of the bill to decrease the retirement tax from 7% to 6%.
Kyle Astle, Fairfield Educator: Astle wrote a letter in strong support of the 1% tax decrease on teachers. His calculated loss of annual pay is $800, cancelling out the “minimal raise” he received that year. This hardship is exacerbated due to the lack of quality health insurance available to him and the fact that teachers do not receive Social Security.
Jennifer Babb, Bridgeport Educator: Babb expressed emphatically the lack of support felt by teachers as a group stating that, “teachers barely make enough to survive.”
Jonathan Baine, East Hampton Educator: Baine wrote in support of the bill.
Denise Baker, Wallingford Educator: Baker wrote in support of the bill.
Alexandra Ballough, Retired Teacher: Ballough wrote in support, expressing that she feels “infuriated” by the way teachers have been taken advantage of and treated by the state.
Daniel Barth, Stonington: Barth shared his support of the bill, stating, “If you truly want a bright future for your city, our state and our country, then place a greater emphasis on teachers and students.”
Renee Beaulieu, Ledyard Educator: Beaulieu supports the roll back and asks the question to our officials, “When will the financial raping of teachers stop?”
Joanna Beernaert, Simsbury Educator: Beernaert supports HB5430 and expressed that teachers are the most underpaid and valuable part of every child's life; for this, they deserve our respect and admiration.
Judith Behling, Enfield Educator: Behling wrote a letter “shaming” the representatives for increasing the tax on teachers, asking the question: “Why would ANYONE want to become a teacher under these circumstances? Instead of attracting the best, you are pushing them away.”
Frances Bellina, Retired Educator: Bellina wrote in support of this bill, stating powerfully: “As a retired teacher I taught my students the obligation to keep their word and honor their commitments. Unfortunately the Connecticut legislation never learned this lesson.”
Joseph Benenati, Bridgeport Educator: Benenati wrote in support of this bill; he also shared that in his 20 years of teaching he has paid upwards of $1000/year out of pocket to provide materials to his students.
Brian Bergeron, East Lyme Educator: Bergeron wrote in support of the bill.
Erin Berthold, Wallingford Educator: Berthold expressed her support of the bill, and also shared that she pays upwards of $1000.
Deborah Best, Amity Educator: Best wrote in support of the bill.
Christine Bialczak, Putnam Educator: Bialczsak shared that she has 2 masters degrees, her administration certificate, and still does not make $65K per year.
Ava Biffer, East Haddam Educator: Biffer explained that she is more than old enough to retire, but because of the poor condition (economically + operationally) of the current education system in America, she cannot afford to do so. She cites the 16% tax increase they have seen over the past years as a major contributor to the current situation and disapproval teachers are collectively feeling across the nation.
Erin Birden, Pomperaug Educator: Birden shared that she is passionate about helping children. She supports the bill rolling back the tax 1%. To quote Birden, “Each day in the classroom, I work with 24 second graders to impart values of equity, fairness, democracy, integrity, and courage. I am asking you to have the courage to be my voice in repealing this tax as I work to be a positive voice in impacting our next generation.”
Ilene Bloomstone, Glastonbury Educator: Bloomstone expressed that she feels taken advantage of, disrespected, and fears her family will have to leave the state that they love very soon.
Gricel Bodden, CREC Educator: Bodden wrote her support of the bill to roll back the –actually- 16.6% tax increase.
Kathleen Boucher, Danbury Educator: Boucher shared that she considers teachers to be the most dedicated public servants in the state of Connecticut. She advised leadership to stop “punishing” public school teachers.
Brenda Bourque, Plainfield Educator: Bourque supports the bill repealing the tax on teachers.
Camille Boyd, Bridgeport Educator: Boyd, along with dozens of others, shared the fact that as a group, teachers are the highest per capita tax among all Connecticut citizens. Boyd supports the bill.
Karen Brewer, Avon Educator: Brewer also supports the bill repealing the tax on teachers.
Brian Brod, Weston Educator: Brod expressed his complete and utter dissatisfaction with his life and career. Brod blames you. Brod supports this bill.
Richard Broggini, Glastonbury Educator: Broggini shared statistics showing how much teachers are tax as well as his support of this bill.
Louise Brown, Milford Educator: Louise shared some insight to “a day in the life of a teacher”; she describes it as the most difficult job she has ever had. Explained that the day is not done at 3:00 as most would imagine, but that there is continuous planning for the days, weeks, months… Lots of correcting and development of lessons and planning, parent emails… The average day does not end until 8/9:30 in the evening.
Katherine Bunko, Waterbury Educator: Bunko supports the bill.
Margo Burr, Montville Educator: Burr supports the bill.
◊We have hit on all the main points & emotions in the testimony selected above…
◊The educators listed below have also written testimony sharing their full support of this bill, and it is repetitive; all sharing similar concerns which boil down to these points:
● After decades in a profession, they feel dissatisfied with their income because they hit a ceiling and there's little room for growth in their chosen field
● They feel it is unfair that they are being taxed and feel they should be considered “public servants”
● They feel unappreciated & taken advantage of by State Legislators
● They are overwhelmed with the current reality of the public school system
● They are unhappy in the profession they selected as it currently stands
● They have spent tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to get multiple degrees in a profession that is dying, and they are frustrated about it and have no idea what to do; many of them are buried in debt.
Additional testimony from educators listed below in alphabetical order…
Click the name to open their full testimony (if viewing in PDF format):
Del Giudice, Justin
Maltese, Norma Jean
Martinez Sendroff, Susan
O Brien, Anna
O Brien, Joe
O Brien, Patricia
O Donnell, Mark
O Hare, Sybil
O Keefe, Kerry
O Lari, Timothy
O Sullivan, Regina
Woodman Osker, Andrea
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Submitted by Joe Horvath, Director of Legislative Outreach
Horvath shares his opposition to the bill stating that the CT State Teacher's Retirement system has *actually* been underfunded.
As of its 2016 actuarial valuation, the plan was only approximately 56 percent funded with an outstanding gap of more than $13 billion. In 2008, Connecticut bonded $2 billion to put toward funding TRS, partially because of how poorly it was funded at the time. This bond, which requires the state to meet its annual contributions, did not, as it turns out, solidify TRS' finances.
To move backward on this change would be poor fiscal policy and, ultimately, not good for either the state or teachers. Maintaining the solvency of TRS is paramount for both the state and the individuals who will eventually rely on it for retirement security.
Reported by: Kate M. Sulick