ORS walk-in center moves downtown

Stevens T. Mason Building

The Office of Retirement Services has moved their walk-in customer service center to the Stevens T. Mason Building in downtown Lansing.

 

Their new address is:

Stevens T. Mason Building

503 W. Allegan Street

Lansing, MI 48933

Street parking is available all around the area. There is also a public lot just east of Constitution Hall on Allegan Street across the road (south side) from the building.

The ORS walk-in office is located on the first floor through the security gates. You should then take a left past the elevators and it will be straight ahead.

 

Greater Daytona Chapter donates S.T.U.F.F.

S.T.U.F.F. bus

S.T.U.F.F. bus

Elizabeth Snider, President of the Greater Daytona Area of MARSP, made the chapter’s donation of school supplies for the “SUPPLYING THINGS YOU FIND FUNDAMENTAL (S.T.U.F.F.) Bus of the Flagler County Education Foundation in Flagler County, Florida.  The donation was made on May 11, 2015, on behalf of the chapter’s members.

Betsy Snider donation

Betsy Snider, president of the Greater Daytona Chapter in Florida, donates school supplies on behalf of chapter members.

BCBSM PPO Verification of coverage forms due July 15

The Verification of Coverage (VOC) was sent to all MPSERS retirees in May who are on the Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO plan. Members who are on HMO plans will not receive this form. Remember to complete the form on behalf of all members on your contract for your medical and prescription drug coverage. The deadline is July 15. You must respond even if you don’t have any other coverage. Failure to do so will result in cancellation of your coverage. There is up to a six-month wait to be reinstated by the Office of Retirement Services. The simplest way to respond is by calling 1-877-445-2192 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

You must respond, even if you don’t have any other coverage. If you don’t respond, your Retirement System coverage will be cancelled on September 1, 2015.

Be sure to complete all areas of the form that apply and return no later than July 15, 2015. One form will be mailed to the contract holder to complete for all members on the contract.  For the majority of members, only question 1 will apply if you have no other coverage. You will need to simply indicate that you have no other coverage, sign, date, and return the form, or reply via phone, online, or fax.

VOCQ1

You have four ways to reply.

  1. Sign and return the completed form in the envelope provided.
  2. Go online to https://mpsers.coverageupdatecenter.com to complete the form.
  3. Call Blue Cross Blue Shield at 1-877-445-2192; TTY number 1-800-735-2929. If you have no other coverage, your response will be collected via the automated telephone system. If you have other coverage to report, you will be connected to a customer service representative to provide your other coverage information.
  4. Sign and fax the completed form to 1-402-384-6310.

If you did not receive a form, call 1-877-445-2192 and dial “0” when asked for you VOC reference number. It will cycle through this prompt twice, however, choosing “0” each time will send you to a customer service representative.

MARSP Holds Legislative Outreach Day

Twenty-nine MARSP members came together on May 13, 2015 to attend scheduled meetings with 22 members of the Michigan House of Representatives and another 16 members of the Michigan Senate.  This Legislative Outreach Day made an impact on these 38 legislators and their staff members on that day. Of greater importance is the impact when the legislators themselves discuss these meetings with other members of the legislature.

MARSP Outreach Days have staying power. This happens regularly when MARSP reaches out in large numbers as we did on May 13th.

As usual, the MARSP Legislative Ambassadors performed admirably on your behalf. We are all fortunate to have such dedicated and well spoken representatives communicating our positions to the legislature on a personal basis.  More information on this event will be available in the July/August issue of VANGUARD.

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Executive Director’s May Blog Post: Proposal 1: A Dismal Failure or Creating New Opportunities?

Proposal 1: A Dismal Failure or Creating New Opportunities?

By now, anyone interested in the outcome of Proposal 1 is well aware of its overwhelming defeat on May 5th. MARSP did take a position in support of the Proposal because it increased funding for education which strengthens the retirement system. Our rationale was posted on our website and in all of our public comments on the matter. I wanted to share some thoughts regarding our position and commend so many of our members for voting. That is without a doubt the most important thing — definitely more important than agreement on the position.

A number of our members took exception to our position, some quite enthusiastically. Politics and tax increases tend to raise the blood pressure. I received just as many comments expressing disgust that we would fall back on the time worn Democrat policies of “tax and spend,” as I received from those who were also disgusted that we would support “those rotten Republicans.” Many commented that Proposal 1 had nothing to do with the retirement system or benefits and we should not have taken any position on the issue. A small number of comments indicated a willingness to conduct a civil discourse on the proposal when our positions differed. These were the people I made a point of contacting personally,

Overall, many people expressed anger. Anger at the Legislature, MARSP, Democrats, Republicans, me, the governor, supporters, opponents, you name it.

Well, I get it, but have we really gotten to a place where screaming at each other has replaced respectful conversation? Have we lost all trust in everything and everyone? Perhaps the Legislature is just a reflection of our own response when we disagree with each other.

We may need to be the ones to initiate change. Let’s be respectful. Let’s yell encouragement to each other. Let’s tell legislators that is what we expect of them. Let’s tell each other the time has come to work together and let’s start with the things we do agree on and maybe that will start a trend. And if it doesn’t, let’s stand together and demand civil discourse, even when we disagree.

That is how we “create new opportunities”!

Executive Director’s April Blog Post: Whatever happened to trusting the Legislature?

We recently sent out a very short survey asking our members their thoughts on Proposal 1. While MARSP supports the Proposal, we also recognize our members are independent thinkers and ultimately make their own decisions when it comes to casting their votes.

The results of the survey were generally what I expected. About 44 percent support the Proposal; about 33 percent oppose it; and the final 23 percent remain undecided. My guess is ultimately the proportions will remain consistent and about 57 percent of our membership will support Proposal 1 while about 43 percent will oppose it.

To me, the most interesting finding comes from the comments made by those undecided and opposed to the Proposal. By a wide margin, both groups indicated their greatest concern is a lack of trust in the Legislature to follow through on the commitments Proposal 1 promises.

The lack of trust should greatly concern the Legislature as well as the leadership of both parties. We have come to a point where most of the public simply do not trust our elected officials to be honest with us on anything.

The continued political bickering and one-upmanship of politics makes the public wish they would all just go away. It’s a sad commentary on our politicians, all of them!

Each party says they are the “honest” ones. Meanwhile they send out their talking heads with talking points that rarely tell the full story and more often than not accuse the other party of telling lies. By the way, is a half-truth being honest? I know when it came to my children, the whole truth was the only thing I found acceptable and I know my parents wouldn’t have ever let me get away with a half-truth.

Maybe therein lies the answer to the whole trust issue. Politicians would be well served to consider how trust is built: When we, the voting public ask for the whole story from politicians, we expect to get the whole story. Anything less creates more mistrust and the real possibility that those politicians will have to be grounded from playing with their friends.

Detroit News take on MEA exec pension deal

In her Detroit News column March 20 regarding Steven Cook’s pension deal, Ingrid Jacques implies that all public school employees and retirees have “sweetheart, six-figure pensions” from the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.  With about 400,000 active employees and retirees, the current average retiree benefit is about $20,000 and the average salary for active employees is about $40,000. In addition to teachers, those employees and retirees are bus drivers, maintenance workers and support personnel.

A payout of $100,000 in benefits is rare. Although the Detroit News takes issue with Mr. Cook’s income and retirement benefits, both were negotiated in good faith.  In today’s world, such negotiated deals are not typical.

Michigan Supreme Court upholds law on teacher pensions

By Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press 12:55 a.m. EDT April 9, 2015

The Michigan Supreme Court, rejecting arguments from unions, has upheld a 2012 state law requiring teachers to put more of their pay toward their pension plans or face cuts to benefits.

LANSING – The Michigan Supreme Court, rejecting arguments from unions, has upheld a 2012 state law requiring teachers and other school employees to put more of their pay toward their pension plans or face cuts to benefits such as post-retirement health care.

The 6-0 ruling upheld a January 2014 ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals and an earlier ruling by an Ingham County Circuit Court judge. Only the court’s newest member, Justice Richard Bernstein, did not participate in the decision.

“We hold that the act does not violate any provision of either the Michigan constitution or the United States Constitution,” wrote Justice Stephen Markman.

The law, backed by Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature, was intended to cut an estimated $45-billion unfunded liability in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System by more than $15 billion.

Under the law, school employees hired before 1990 — who were paying nothing toward retirement — must contribute 4% of their pay or have their benefits cut. Those hired from 1990 to June 2010 must pay 7% to keep their pensions intact. Previously, they paid 3% to 6.4%.

Those hired since the middle of 2010 are in a 401(k)-type pension plan and aren’t affected by the law.

In 2012 lawmakers also ended employer-provided health care for new hires, and instead gave them a match of up to 2% in their 401(k), plus a lump sum upon retirement to pay for health insurance. Current retirees must pay at least 20% of their medical premiums.

The American Federation of Teachers and the Michigan Education Association unions argued the law impaired contracts and amounted to uncompensated takings of pension benefits.

But both the Michigan Supreme Court and the appeals court said the law doesn’t violate a Michigan constitutional provision protecting earned pension benefits, because only future benefits are affected. Also, unlike an earlier law that mandated 3% contributions toward health care, the 2012 law provides an opt-out provision, the court said.

Markman said the court is “not oblivious to the fact” many teachers consider the changes “unfair and unsatisfactory.” But he said “decisions concerning the allocation of public resources will often leave some parties disappointed,” and changes should be pursued through the Legislature, not the courts.

The courts earlier struck down a 2010 law which required teachers to put 3% of their pay toward retirement costs but included no opt-out provision.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.

Press Release: MARSP supports Proposal 1

State’s largest school retiree group supports Proposal 1

The Proposal 1 campaign earned a potential boost from 45,000 likely voters this week as the Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel (MARSP) agreed to support the measure, which will go before voters on May 5.

“In addition to the obvious need to improve our infrastructure across the state, the proposal will have a direct impact on education,” says Mark Guastella, MARSP executive director. “If passed, the measure will generate $292 million for the School Aid Fund. That will help strengthen the education system and improve education outcomes for students.”

The ballot initiative would increase the state sales tax 1 percent and repeal the sales tax on gasoline, while at the same time increasing the gas tax and adjusting it annually for inflation. It also directs school aid funding to K-12 and community colleges, rather than higher education.

The initiative would generate at least $1.2 billion for roads, bridges and other transportation needs. Local governments would receive $94 million and lower income individuals would receive tax relief of roughly $260 million through a full restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“We’re encouraging our membership of retired teachers, support personnel and administrators to vote in May,” says Robert Wiles, MARSP president, “and we’re providing information so that they can make an informed decision. We believe that a Yes vote is the best answer to bring Michigan’s roads and bridges back to a high standard of quality and safety.”