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21 Feb
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House Appropriations Committee Meets, Receives Testimony From TRS and TRTA

Executive Summary:

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III met yesterday, February 20, and the legislators’ discussions centered on the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The committee received testimony from TRS and the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA).

Much of this year’s testimony has been focused on two things: the TRS pension fund and the TRS health care system. Both systems require more base funding to reach an adequate state.

For TRS-Care, it’s facing a $230 million budget shortfall this session. However, that shortfall will once again skyrocket for the next legislative session. Increasing the amount of money going into TRS-Care to help offset rising health care costs will be critical.

The TRS pension fund receives the lowest percentage of state funding of any non-mandatory Social Security state in the nation. Since lowering its assumed rate of return to 7.25 percent, TRS has seen its unfunded liabilities increase. If retirees would like to see any sort of COLA or benefit increase in their pension fund, the state must increase funding into TRS.

Support TRTA’s plan by completing today’s Action Alert!

That’s why TRTA created the #RAISETHEBASE campaign. The campaign is centered on the idea that Texas needs to increase the base funding for the vital TRS-run programs.

During Tim Lee’s presentation to the House Appropriations Committee yesterday, he stressed these ideas.

Lee pointed out that now is the moment for Texas to ensure the TRS plan will survive and thrive; or, we will begin a downward spiral with costs outpacing contributions and benefits being reduced. History is clear, and shows that funding now saves pain later.

The House Committee on Appropriations will continue to discuss and review options to improve these programs during future meetings. TRTA will keep its members updated as committee meetings progress throughout session.

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20 Feb
0

TRTA Mission #RaiseTheBase! Gets Underway: Send Your Email Today!

Executive Summary:

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) has been working closely with legislators in both the Texas Senate and House to make progress on its robust legislative agenda.

Above all, TRTA wants legislators to know that it’s time to raise the base funding for both the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund and the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program.

TRTA members, we need your help to spread this message to every office in the Texas Legislature!

CLICK HERE TO SEND AN ACTION ALERT

Already, the Texas Senate has filed numerous bills that would impact TRS retirees in a positive way.

TRTA wrote about Senator Joan Huffman’s (R – Houston) bill, SB 393, in this Inside Line article. During the Senate Finance Committee meeting held on February 11, Sen. Huffman reviewed the TRS pension fund in detail, and discussed how it would take a $1.6 billion increase in state funding each biennium to make up for the lowered rate of return assumption approved by TRS last year. SB 393 would increase contributions into the fund, generating the funding necessary to make up for the change by increasing funding from three sources: the state, school districts and active educators.

Many other bills that would impact TRS retirees in a positive manner have been filed and TRTA is working on bill analysis of them all now.

How TRTA Members Can Help!

TRTA is encouraging its members to communicate with their fellow retirees that good things can happen and a positive outcome is possible! Legislators are working for you! TRTA members have been actively communicating with elected officials. Now, the legislators are in session, and many of them are thinking about the retirees and want to help. Let’s get behind these efforts in a positive way! Let’s work with a belief that good things are possible and will happen for TRS retirees.

TRTA is encouraging its members to contact legislators on social media with the hashtag #RAISETHEBASE! You can find your legislators on Facebook and Twitter by doing a search for their first and last name. Not sure who your state legislators are? Click here to do a search by address. You can also search for the legislators via the Texas Tribune’s directory, which contains links to their social media pages. Let them know how excited you are about the opportunity to increase the state funding for the TRS pension fund and be sure to use the #RAISETHEBASE hashtag!

Be sure to click here and send an email to your elected officials encouraging them this session and asking them to support the TRTA agenda to #RAISETHEBASE for TRS programs and find a way to help improve TRS retiree benefits!

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12 Feb
0

Senate Finance Committee Discusses TRS Pension Fund and Health Care

Executive Summary:

The Senate Finance Committee met yesterday to discuss the status of the retiree pension fund and health care program. The committee received testimony from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas as well as stakeholder groups, including the Texas Retired Teachers Association’s (TRTA) Executive Director, Tim Lee.

TRS reviewed the changes to the rate of return assumption that occurred in August 2018. TRS lowered the rate of return assumption from 8 percent to 7.25 percent. While the drop in rate of return assumption won’t impact the current amount that retirees are receiving, it will impact the potential for future cost-of-living increases.

TRS answered a variety of questions from the committee about this change. Sen. Joan Huffman (R – Houston) reviewed the change in detail, and discussed how it would take a $1.6 billion increase in state funding each biennium to make up for the lowered rate of return assumption. Huffman has proposed a bill, SB 393, which would increase contributions into the pension fund. SB 393 would generate the funding necessary to make up for the change by increasing funding from three sources: the state, school districts and active educators.

If SB 393 or a similar bill were to pass, the pension fund’s unfunded liabilities would be reduced to 19 years. With this type of influx in funding, the door would be open for Texas to provide a cost-of-living increase for retirees.

TRTA would like to see the state increase its base funding for the pension fund. Among non-mandatory Social Security states, Texas ranks last in its funding for the pension fund. TRS is the 13thlargest pension fund in the world. The state of Texas increasing its funding for the TRS pension fund would be a boon to retirees. Retirees live on modest fixed incomes, and 96 percent of Texas school districts don’t pay into Social Security. TRTA is encouraging its members to use #RAISETHEBASE when communicating with legislators on social media to raise awareness of this issue.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee explained the necessity of adding funding for the TRS pension fund and more permanent funding for TRS-Care. TRS-Care has another shortfall; and while the current shortfall–$214 million–is smaller than in previous years, a larger shortfall looms again in the next biennium that could reach $1 billion if nothing is done to address the program’s permanent funding structure.

“Health care is eating us alive with these costs,” Lee said of retirees’ plight.

You may view Lee’s presentation here.

It will be critical for the Legislature to address TRS-Care’s long-term solvency if it wants to avoid a repeat of last session’s additional burden to retiree health care costs.

Lee discussed both funding issues for the health care plan and the pension fund on his weekly “Facebook Friday” episode, which is available here. Be sure to tune every Friday in as Lee addresses the latest updates on retiree issues during the 86thLegislative Session.

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