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Momentum Building Around Supportive Subcommittee
Chairman John Otto Adds Emphasis to Helping TRS
The 83rd Legislative Session is unfolding quickly, and many elements of the TRTA legislative agenda are moving forward. We are pushing for legislative action on several fronts, including increased appropriations for the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care, and finding a way to help our members who are in great need of a benefit increase.
Thousands of TRTA members have drawn attention to this agenda by asking their State Representatives to support HB 1383—a bill authored by Representative Jim Keffer.
This push has made more legislators aware of our emphasis on making the TRS pension fund actuarially sound. While this is a multistep process, TRTA received some good news from the House Appropriations subcommittee working on TRS issues. Their deliberations have added about $136 million more into the TRS pension fund! This would increase the TRS appropriation to 6.6% in each year of the biennium. This recommendation is the highest level of funding support that TRS has seen in nearly 20 years!
While the suggested appropriation would not make the fund actuarially sound, it does signal a move in the right direction. We still have time this session to try to find additional funds necessary to achieve our goals. Make no mistake, the TRTA legislative team will do everything we can to protect your pension fund and improve your retirement security and benefits.
Increased appropriations discussions are very difficult, especially in an environment where so many programs experienced cuts last session. Considering the efforts that other groups have made to give the TRS pension benefit program a bad name, we clearly still have many supporters in the Texas Legislature. TRTA is grateful to Chairman Otto and the entire House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education for their focus on TRS. Now, let’s build this momentum and continue to push for making TRS actuarially sound!
An Effort Revived!
As many of you know, TRTA has many friends in the Texas Legislature. Two of those members are State Senator Robert Deuell and Representative Larry Gonzales.
These two members have refilled bills they championed last session. SB 643 and HB 103 are supplemental payment bills that would authorize TRS to make an extra benefit payment to TRS annuitants under certain conditions. We want these bills to gain traction and momentum in the legislative process.
We need your help. Please click the e-advocacy link at the top of this update to send an email on these important issues.
It has been 12 years since our TRS retirees have received a real cost-of-living raise. It has been 5 years since a supplemental payment was issued in 2008. Our retirees are paying almost 300% more for gasoline and over 250% more for ground beef than they did in 2001, the time the last increase went into effect.
These bills would use excess pension fund earnings to support a supplemental payment for TRS annuitants. They would not have an adverse impact on the fund, as they maintain minimum levels of funding for the TRS pension fund. The bills would not guarantee anything more than a one-time additional payment (keeping the overall cost very low for the system).
Again, we need your help. Please use the e-advocacy link above to send an email about these important bills.
There has never been any doubt in my mind that the best advocates in Texas are retired public school employees! You are all doing an amazing job of communicating with your legislators. Our members have sent over 10,000 emails to legislators this session, and it’s only the beginning of March!
Our legislative teams have made hundreds of visits and we have learned a great deal. Perhaps one of the most significant lessons we have learned is that nearly every legislator we have talked with supports the TRS defined benefit pension plan! You are doing a great job educating our elected officials about how the fund works. They know that the fund is in good fiscal health (though we are working to make it even better), and that the best bang-for-the-buck for existing and future public school retirees is the defined benefit traditional retirement plan.
Thank you for what you have done to help this session. We still have a long way to go, and TRTA is in no way slowing down its efforts to help you. We are encouraged that many long-time legislative members and even recently elected members are realizing the real value that TRS offers to Texas.
Keep up the good work, and thank you for your strong support. TRTA members are making a big impact!
If you are not a member and want more information about joining our efforts to protect and improve TRS, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650.