Wyoming Education Association

Spring 22

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Page 21 of 31

Retired Retired A "13th Check" for all WRS retired beneficiaries was introduced this past legislative session. The Wyoming Coalition for Healthy Retirement (WCHR) orchestrated a postcard writing campaign; beneficiaries contacted their legislators, expressing their need for a benefit increase. Our lobbyists and activists were a constant presence at the Capitol, educating legislators on why an increase is necessary. State retirees are living on 2008 pension income and have lost more than 20% in buying power. Communities are also being impacted. With less money to spend, fewer purchases can be made. For every $1.00 spent by retirees, $1.12 is realized in economic activity. Retirees are negatively impacted by no benefits increase in 14 years, and so are communities. Yet again, during this 2022 legislative session, no benefits increase was given. That sends a dangerous message to Wyoming's current public employees and those considering moving to Wyoming to live and work. A State survey showed that the Wyoming Retirement System (WRS) pension plan is the #1 reason State of Wyoming employees chose to work for the State and, it is the #1 reason they choose to stay. There is a 14% shortage in the State workforce. As of this writing, there are 219 Wyoming teacher vacancies, and that number will very likely grow by year's end. The Wyoming United Firefighters reports that recruiting and retaining firefighters is becoming increasingly difficult. The Wyoming Public Employees Association believes city, town, and county governments, and other public sectors, will experience high numbers of vacancies statewide —if they are not already. The law enforcement sector is also having difficulty recruiting and retaining employees. Periodic benefits increases are important to public employees in all these sectors. The future of Wyoming's public service workforce is in jeopardy. It need not be. The WRS corpus is healthy and can easily afford a benefits increase. A 6.8 % yearly investment return is needed to keep the WRS corpus healthy. Over the last three years, investment gains were 11%, 18%, and 17%. That 17% alone translated into more than $1 BILLION. The total amount in the corpus is $10.38 BILLION, a portion of which was earned from decades of monthly contributions by the current 33,268 public retirees and their employers. The corpus could very safely manage the $6.4 million cost of a 13th Check. When retirees and current public employees began their careers, there was an expectation of periodic retirement benefit increases. Fourteen years passing with NO type of benefits increase—when investment gains are doing extremely well—is unacceptable. We asked this Wyoming Legislature to support the Wyoming public servants who worked to shape the communities they represent and to help Wyoming recruit and retain the quality public workforce we must have in all public sectors if we are to maintain quality public services. They did not do that. Our benefits increase legislation had much-appreciated support in the House and passed by a large margin, but we were not supported in the Senate. No matter how loud our unified voice and no matter how healthy the WRS corpus is, will retirees receive a benefits increase next year without changing some faces at the state legislature? This is an election year. All of Wyoming's House seats and half the Senate seats are up for election. WEA's Political Action Committee for Education (PACE) works to vet and support candidates who will uphold our legislative platform. A healthy retirement is one of those. We must elect legislators who listen to their constituents and do what is right. Help support the work of WEA-PACE in any way you can—through donations, running for office, and/or supporting the campaigns of quality candidates. It will take work by many people, but we will achieve a retirement benefits increase and a brighter landscape for Wyoming education and Wyoming at large. Vicki Swenson President WEA-R vicki@wyoming.com "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." Greetings from WEA-Retired, In Solidarity, Vicki Swenson President WEA-R - Helen Keller S can n o w t o d o n a t e t o W EA - P A C E 22

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