22 Jan 2021

Legislative Leaders File Base Budget Bill, Includes Increased Funds for TRS

TRTA Members Are Making the Difference!

On Thursday, January 21, 2021, legislative leaders introduced base budget bills in both the Texas Senate and House. While the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is still reviewing all aspects of these bills, there is very good news about funding for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) in both versions of the state budget.

The proposed biennial budget is for fiscal years 2022-2023 and will be adjusted throughout the 87th Legislative Session that began on January 12 and continues through the end of May. Included in the base budget bills is more than $5 billion for the TRS pension fund. TRTA members will be proud to hear that the TRS trust fund is receiving increases in overall funding based on both active teacher payroll growth and as a result of the continuing reforms that were passed last session through Senate Bill 12.

TRTA dedicated extensive work to ensuring the passage of SB 12 in 2019. SB 12 paved the way for the TRS fund to become actuarially sound, a necessary measure that must be met before the Texas Legislature is able to approve any kind of cost-of-living adjustments (COLAS) or supplemental payments for our public education retirees.

The budget increase for the pension fund is encouraging, considering the state’s looming budget shortfall. In order for the TRS pension fund to remain healthy, this increase—and others that were passed as a result of SB 12 and will be implemented in future years—is vital.

The Senate and House base budget bills also include $897.6 million, an increase of $39.5 million, for statutorily required contributions to TRS-Care to maintain current health insurance premiums and benefits for retired teachers.

TRTA members have done a tremendous amount of work to ensure TRS budgetary funding remains on track. This budget shows us that our elected officials are hearing your voice! Our work, however, is far from over and will continue throughout the legislative session. Thank you to our TRTA members who have done so much already to get us off to a great start this session.

We also thank Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Senator Jane Nelson, and the members of the Senate Finance Committee for their early show of support for TRS budgetary needs. TRTA is also grateful to Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, Representative Giovanni Capriglione, and the members of the House Appropriations Committee for their dedication to TRS. Together, TRTA, its members, and the Legislature have partnered on many crucial bills and accomplished significant achievements over several sessions.

Ensuring adequate funding for the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care program are some of TRTA members’ highest legislative priorities. The news so far is very positive. TRTA members know that we are only at the beginning of the legislative session and things may turn at any moment. Please, stay tuned to our updates via the Inside Line and be ready to act as necessary over the coming weeks!

TRTA already is working with numerous elected officials who want to help TRS retirees. Many bills are being drafted and work is underway! As a TRTA member, we know you support these efforts. You will be the first to receive updates as they happen. If you know of a retiree who does not receive our email newsletter, tell them to sign up! It’s free! Click here to learn more.

Thank You

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! Be sure to download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest legislative updates.

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19 Jan 2021

Texas Legislature Senate Committees Named

On Jan. 15, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick named the Senate committees. Key committees for Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) issues are the Senate Finance, Senate State Affairs, and Senate Education committees. The Senate also adopted rules for the legislative session. A new rule will require an 18-vote threshold for bringing a bill to the Senate floor.

The Senate Finance and State Affairs committee work closely together to ensure that policy changes and funding changes complement each other as session progresses. The Senate Finance committee will again be chaired by Senator Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound), who along with Senators Eddie Lucio (D – Brownsville) and Charles Schwertner (R – Georgetown) also serve on Senate State affairs.

The Senate State Affairs committee will be chaired by Senator Bryan Hughes (R – Mineola). Hughes moved into this position after the last session as Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston) was named to lead the Senate Redistricting process through the interim. The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is looking forward to working with both Chairs Hughes and Nelson, as well as all the committee members, to advance our priorities and the TRS Sunset bill.

A full list of the committee assignments is available here.

Thank You

Stay tuned to the Inside Line for additional information as we dive more deeply into the 87th Legislative Session. You can also download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest updates and communicate with your fellow retirees.

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14 Jan 2021

Texas Sunset Commission Recommends Changes for TRS, Including Disclosure of Staff Bonuses

Executive Summary:

  • The Texas Sunset Commission adopted its final report recommending and requiring changes to the TRS based on more than a year of investigation and public input 
  • Legislation will be filed to: 
    • require TRS to develop a communication and outreach plan to help repair the relationship between TRS and its members and to respond to member health care issues in a timely fashion
    • require TRS to publish staff incentives tied to fund performance and the incentive plan in the TRS comprehensive annual financial report for greater transparency
    • require TRS to improve efforts to return member contributions to inactive members
    • require TRS to appoint an ombudsman to report directly to the TRS board regarding complaints and appeals by members and to track member satisfaction 
    • require TRS to provide more comprehensive information on TRS-Care healthcare costs, including out-of-pocket costs to retirees
    • address the penalty structure for retirees who return to work in a more equitable and less punitive fashion

Yesterday, the Texas Sunset Commission met to review its legislative recommendations for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). Working collaboratively with TRS and Sunset commission members, all Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) recommendations to the commission were included in the final report. The recommendations were developed by TRTA’s Legislative Committee and detailed in TRTA’s public testimony.

TRTA has been pivotal during the evaluation of TRS and subsequent sunset staff review. Our recommendations to improve the agency may be found by clicking here.

Last year, the Sunset staff performed extensive research and analysis evaluating the need for, performance of, and improvements to TRS. The review included TRS’s self-evaluation and input from stakeholders like the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA).

TRS is an agency established by the constitution and is not under review for potential dissolution. However, the way the agency functions—including business operations and relationships with members—was thoroughly evaluated over the past year. Here is the initial sunset staff report that was the subject of discussion in December.

During today’s meeting, the Sunset Commission adopted recommendations for legislation to improve TRS’s efficiency and effectiveness, as well as suggested actions that will be taken by TRS management staff that do not require legislation.

A Sunset bill will be created to address these issues for the 87th Legislative Session that began on Tuesday, January 12.

Thank You

Thank you to Chairman John Cyrier and Vice Chair Dawn Buckingham for your leadership on the Sunset Advisory Committee. TRTA and its members appreciate the work of Rep. Terry Canales, Sen. Eddie Lucio, and Sen. Angela Paxton for making the adjustments yesterday. TRTA extends its gratitude to TRS for working with on these important changes to the sunset report.

Stay tuned to the Inside Line for additional information as we dive more deeply into the 87th Legislative Session. You can also download the TRTA app to receive all of the latest updates and communicate with your fellow retirees.

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