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On Monday, June 1, the 84th Texas Legislative Session came to the end of its 140 day journey. At the beginning of the 2015, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) sought to solve a massive budget deficit to TRS-Care, the health insurance program more than 240,000 retired public educators rely upon, and protect the provisions passed last session that made the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) actuarially sound.
We faced a significant hurdle, but thanks to the help of thousands of retired educators, TRTA was able to secure $768 million to supplement the budget shortfall facing TRS-Care. The supplemental funds will ensure that retirees’ insurance premiums will not increase during the upcoming 2015-2016 biennium!
However, the supplemental funds passed by the Legislature do not solve the core funding issue for TRS-Care, which is the disparity between basing contributions on active teacher payroll and burgeoning health care costs. The Texas Legislature will again be faced with choosing between providing more supplemental funding and resolving the TRS-Care crisis during the 85th Legislative Session that starts in 2017.
The provisions in SB 1458 were held intact during the session, despite attacks on teachers’ pensions by outside organizations. However, the Legislature did not pass an additional cost-of-living increase that would have covered the 100,000-plus retirees who did not receive the 3 percent increase in 2013.
Several bills were filed this session that would have provided a benefit increase or supplemental payment (thirteenth check). The TRS fund presently is financially healthy enough to provide some kind of increase, having earned more than $19 billion during the last fiscal year. However, none of the filed bills made it out of committee.
Two additional bills, HB 2168 and SB 1940, were passed during the 84th Legislative Session that will impact retirees’ benefits and health care plans. HB 2168 alters the dates on which TRS annuitants receive their monthly annuities. Previously, TRS distributed payments on the first working day of each month after the benefits were earned. Beginning in September 2015, TRS will distribute payments on the last day of each month in which the benefits are earned. Read more about your annuity payment schedule here.
HB 2168 will prevent retired educators from waiting additional days during holidays and weekends to receive their annuities.
SB 1940 forms an interim committee of Senators and Representatives which will study TRS-Care. The committee will seek information about how best to address the funding issues surrounding TRS-Care.
Thank you for your hard work during the 84th Legislative Session. Through your persistent contact and passionate pleas, TRTA was able to secure $768 million to protect TRS-Care premiums!
However, funding issues for TRS-Care still remain, and retired educators have only received one permanent cost-of-living increase since 2001. It is critical that retired school personnel band together during the interim, and make their voices heard.
Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook y Gorjeo! Visit our Canal de Youtube for regular video updates.