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On the proposal on the constitutional convention on the Nov. 7 ballot, we’re asking you to vote NO. We’re asking you to tell your family and friends to vote NO. Even if you’ve never been politically active, this is an issue that can affect you, your pension and your union’s right to bargain collectively on your behalf.
Every 20 years, state law calls for New Yorkers to decide whether the state should hold a convention to “revise the constitution and amend the same.” Anti-union forces are pushing for a convention because they want to eliminate your guaranteed pension and the right of workers to unionize and collectively bargain.
But it’s not only union members who have something to lose. Holding a constitutional convention could open the flood gates to major changes concerning many things New Yorkers value, including a free public school education, Workers’ Compensation and “forever wild” park lands and forest preserves.
A constitutional convention is not the only way to amend the state constitution. State lawmakers may propose specific constitutional amendments that must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions and then be sent to voters for final ratification. A constitutional convention, however, opens the entire document to revision at one time and could include a full rewrite. Nothing would be off the table, which means everything would be up for grabs, including your pension!
Last but not least, a constitutional convention would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. In all probability, the same politicians who are in office now would be elected convention delegates.
The union is working hard to galvanize voters to vote NO. But we need your help. Talk to your family members and talk to your friends. Post information on your social media accounts and email everyone on your contact list who votes in New York State. Tell them what’s at stake and why it’s so important that we all come together and vote NO on Nov. 7 to a constitutional convention.
Saving money for the future
According to experts, retirees will need at least 80 percent of preretirement earnings plus high-quality health insurance for financial security. Thanks to the UFT and the New York City Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella group for all municipal unions that negotiates health benefits, UFT members are ensured this level of security with a defined-benefit pension and, for most members, city-provided health insurance
UFT members may also take advantage of a savings plan called the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program. As its name states, a tax-deferred annuity allows members to save money while deferring taxes. It has low investment fees, which allow participants to obtain higher earnings. As with the defined-benefit pension, the TDA is administered by the Teachers’ Retirement System.
Since its inception in 1970, the TDA has been among the most popular benefits the UFT offers its members. More than 75 percent of in-service and retired members have TDAs.
The TDA enables you to save money while deferring federal income taxes on both the deposits and the investment earnings. New York State and city residents may also defer state and local income taxes. (Members who live in other states should consult with local tax experts about TDA rules.)
Tax-deferred annuity programs have strict rules and possible tax repercussions on withdrawals before the age of 59½. Taxes are due when money is withdrawn from the account.
Members may choose from among six investment funds, collectively called the Passport Funds. For information on these funds, visit the TRS website and click on Investments.
With a TDA, a defined-benefit pension, health insurance and Social Security, UFT members enjoy a secure retirement as well as the knowledge that a debilitating illness or health condition will not wipe them out financially.
This column is compiled by Tom Brown, David Kazansky and Debra Penny, teacher-members of the NYC Teachers’ Retirement Board.
What is your favorite movie about a teacher?
Dead Poets Society
Stand and Deliver
Mr. Holland's Opus
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