22 Apr 2011

Bill Eliminating TRS DB Plan Heard Next Week

Defined Benefit Plan Under Attack

Legislative Plan Calls for the End of TRS Benefit as We Know It

The House Committee on Pensions, Investments and Financial Services (PIFS) will have a public hearing on HB 2506, a bill that calls for the elimination of the state defined benefit plan provided for employees of the Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and the Employee Retirement System (ERS). While this legislation does NOT change benefits for current retirees, it would eliminate the defined benefit for future retirees and virtually nullify any attempts to provide current retirees a benefit increase now or ever again. TRTA is prepared to voice strong opposition to this legislative proposal.

HB 2506 is sponsored by Representative Warren Chisum (R-Pampa). TRTA has already met with Representative Chisum’s staff during the session expressing our opposition to this bill. The proposal to eliminate the TRS defined benefit retirement plan is a direct contradiction to TRTA’s core organizational value…that is the preservation of the traditional retirement plan for all TRS members.

TRTA is interested to learn what arguments will be offered for undermining one of the state’s most successful programs, especially in the case of the Teacher Retirement System. As TRTA members already know, the TRS pension fund provides retirement security to over 1.3 million Texans, it is responsible for the creation of over 91,000 full-time Texas jobs, and it provides a higher level of benefit than federal Social Security program at a lower overall cost. In short, TRS is a strong economic engine and a job-creating juggernaut for Texas.

The reality is that eliminating the TRS defined benefit plan is bad public policy. TRS Texas is the 6th largest pension plan in the country, the 17th largest plan in the world, it is well-funded, it is well-managed, and it is the bedrock of retirement security for Texas public education employees. TRTA will send a strong message to the House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee that HB 2506 is bad for educators, bad for retirees, and bad for Texas.

The House PIFS Committee meeting on this legislation is scheduled for Tuesday, April 26, 2011 in room E2.014 in the Texas Capitol. The time is set for “Upon Final Adjournment of the Texas House,” which will be sometime in the afternoon. TRTA will work to find out more details about next week’s schedule in an effort to provide a more definitive time. Local TRTA members wishing to attend can call the office on Monday, April 25th for more information. TRTA members who are not able to come to Austin may want to watch the hearing on their computer by visiting the Texas House website at

Thank you for your support and interest in protecting the TRS pension trust fund.


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22 Apr 2011

TRTA Action Alert: Support Senate Version of the Texas Budget

TRTA Action Alert


Support the Senate Budget Recommendation

The Texas Senate has recommended a budget plan that is far better to TRS retirees than the version passed by the Texas House. The Senate proposal was developed in large part by State Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock). The highlights of Senator Duncan’s proposal to protect TRS funding are provided below.

TRTA members can now participate in the new email advocacy campaign by clicking here! This email action advocacy campaign provides information to your Senator about the Duncan proposal to protect TRS and that the Texas Retired Teachers Association supports these recommendations.

Senator Robert Duncan’s “TRS Protection” Budget Proposal (as part of the Texas Senate substitute for HB 1)

TRS-Care Health Insurance Program

  • Fund TRS-Care in FY 2012 at 1 percent allowing TRS and the State to show a “maintenance of effort” in qualifying for additional federal health care dollars available through the retiree reinsurance program;
  • Fund TRS-Care in FY 2013 at 0.5 percent (the federal dollars are expected to be exhausted by that time);
  • Provide budget language with the intent to not increase TRS-Care premiums for the coming biennium;
  • Sweep any excess budget dollars available through the annual “settle-up” from/to TRS in the budget process back to TRS-Care;
  • Provide for a study to be conducted in the interim that analyzes the TRS-Care program and offer suggestions on how to maintain efficiencies and implement new cost savings measures designed to protect the TRS-Care program;
  • This proposal adds $134 million back to TRS-Care funding for the biennium with the intent that there will be NO premium increase in FY 2012 or FY 2013!

TRS pension trust fund

  • Provide for a state contribution to the TRS pension trust fund in FY 2012 at 6.0 percent;
  • Provide for a state contribution to the TRS pension trust fund in FY 2012 at 6.4 percent;
  • Temporarily suspends the requirement that the state contribution must be at least equal or greater than the active member contribution (FY 2012);
  • Maintains the active member contribution to the TRS pension trust fund for FY 2012 and FY 2013 at 6.4 percent;
  • This proposal will NOT make the fund actuarially sound, and it will NOT provide an increase to retirees, BUT it WILL restore over $100 million in pension trust fund contributions helping the system get to actuarial soundness sooner than later.

Again, all TRTA members should participate in this advocacy campaign. Please click here to send an email to your Texas Senator asking for their support when the budget comes up for a vote by the full Senate next week.

As always, TRTA appreciates your hard work and commitment to our legislative and organizational efforts. You are the difference maker. By giving a portion of your valuable time to support our legislative outreach, we are making a difference for all TRS retirees. Thank you!

If you are not a member of the Texas Retired Teachers Association but would like to join in our efforts to protect the retirement benefits and the TRS-Care health insurance program, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650.

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19 Apr 2011

TRTA Inside Line April 19, 2011

Supplemental Payment Bill Heard in House Committee

Legislation would use fund’s investment earnings to make payment

Legislation authored by Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) would provide Texas public education retirees with a supplemental payment similar to the one provided in 2008. The legislation intends to set some temporary benchmarks on when and how the payment could be made if various conditions are met. The innovative piece of this legislation utilizes a portion of the TRS pension trust fund investment earnings to cover the cost of the supplemental payment.

HB 3542 has several key components:

  • The legislation designates TRS investment earnings as the funding mechanism for the supplemental payment;
  • It mandates that the system must first meet its actuarial expected return on investments of 8 percent, and that investment earnings above the 8 percent could then be used to fund the supplemental payment;
  • The legislation models the supplemental payment authorization from 2007 and allows the TRS Board of Trustees to make a payment if the bill’s statutory provisions are met;
  • Provides for a payment to be equal to a retiree’s one-month annuity amount up to $2,400;
  • Requires the TRS pension trust fund be at least 80 percent funded for the payment to be made, and that the payment cannot lower the fund to be less than 80 percent funded if issued;
  • The legislation provides for a temporary suspension of the statutory provision that prohibits retirees from receiving a supplemental payment if the system cannot amortize its unfunded liabilities over a 31-year period;
  • Legislation sunsets in 2014.

TRTA supports HB 3542 as a method to fund a TRS supplemental payment. The benefit of this legislation is that it offers a way to fund a supplemental payment to public education retirees without requiring additional state general revenue (or budget dollars), allows retirees to receive the payment even though the fund does not meet the statutory definition of actuarial soundness, it protects the system by requiring an 80 percent funding level for the payment to be authorized, and it utilizes the a small portion of the investment earnings to help retirees today without sacrificing the future of the fund.

Representative Gonzales made a great comment about his bill during today’s hearing, “…these are extraordinary times and we are just trying to find ways to help extraordinary people.” TRTA appreciates Representative Gonzales for authoring this innovative approach to help public education retirees who have not seen a permanent increase in their pension benefits for a decade. We also express our sincere appreciation to Representative Truitt, Chairwoman of the House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee for allowing the bill to receive a hearing.

Over 20 TRTA members from Representative Gonzales’ district and the surrounding area attended today’s hearing and filed witness affirmation slips in favor of the legislation. Several constituents provided critical and succinct testimony for the legislation.

The bill has been left pending in committee for future action. TRTA will continue to work with committee members to have the bill voted out of committee and sent to the House floor. In addition, HB 3542 has a companion bill in the Senate authored by Senator Robert Deuell (R-Greenville). That bill, SB 1333, is in the Senate State Affairs Committee and has not yet been posted for a hearing.

TRTA members should know that even if the legislation is adopted, it in no way gurantees a supplemental payment will be made.  Testimony provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) suggested the fund investment earnings may need to be as high as 21 percent just to keep the system above the 80 percent funded status as required by HB 3542. While this is not unheard of, it is a significant challenge. Still, HB 3542 provides one of the only supplemental payment options for retirees this session and its unique approach is one that could provide immediate financial relief to hundreds of thousands of public education retirees. TRTA will keep you informed as these bills move through the legislative process.

Thank you for your support and for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association. If you are not a member and would like to join, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650 and we will answer any questions you may have.

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