On Tuesday, October 1, 2013, 200,000 public education retirees in Texas will receive their first permanent cost-of-living increase since 2001. This is the result of the passage of Senate Bill 1458, which was conceived and completed during the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature this year.
SB 1458 provides for a cost-of-living increase of 3% (not to exceed $100 per month) for retirees of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) who retired as of August 31, 2004 or before. If you fall into this category, you will see the increase in your annuity in your October paycheck.
SB 1458 was authored by Senator Robert Duncan and Representative Bill Callegari. After months of discussion between legislators, TRTA, and active teacher groups, the bill’s final version passed unanimously in both houses of the Texas Legislature. The support that was shown for retirees this past session was astounding!
Not only did SB 1458 provide financial relief for most retirees, it made the pension fund actuarially sound for the first time in many years. According to state law, pension increases such as the COLA being provided in October are not possible legally unless the pension fund is actuarially sound.
Being actuarially sound is very important not just to provide increases for retirees, but to preserve the fund for the long term. TRTA’s primary goal is to ensure that the TRS fund remains intact for all current and future retirees and that the defined benefit plan is maintained. A defined benefit plan ensures retirees an income for the rest of their lives, as opposed to a defined contribution plan which retirees can outlive. This is especially important since most Texas school employees have little or no Social Security as part of their retirement.
For this reason, TRTA believes it is important that we show our appreciation to all of our Texas legislators! Some of you may not have received the COLA this year, but because the fund is stable, the likelihood of future increases for more retirees is significantly higher.
TRTA has not forgotten about you, and we continue to work even now talking to legislators about increases for ALL TRS retirees in future sessions.
The work of TRTA members is never done, and though we achieved a major victory this past legislative session, we have several issues that must be addressed now. Our next focus must be on the TRS-Care health insurance program. Over 200,000 retirees and their dependents rely on this program, which is expected to have a shortfall of over $1 billion within the next two to three years.
Now is the time to get in touch with your legislators and ask them about their plans for protecting TRS-Care. Is it vital that you share your opinions with them about what changes to the program you can and cannot accept. It is very possible that a restructuring of TRS-Care could lead to a reduction in benefits, an increase in premiums, or both!
Take advantage of your legislator’s presence in your home district to call them or set up an appointment to meet with them.
Thank you for being a member of the nation’s largest organization of public education retirees! If you are not a member of TRTA and are interested in joining in our grassroots efforts to improve benefits for all TRS retirees, please contact us a 1.800.880.1650.