- Today is day 70 of the 140-day legislative session!
- At the halfway mark of session, the House Appropriations Committee considered budget bills
- TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of HB 1 and the committee substitute for SB 500, which includes additional dollars for the TRS pension fund
- HB 1 and SB 500 passed out of committee, laying the groundwork for making the TRS pension fund actuarially sound
- Send your legislators an email asking them to continue their work to help retired educators this session!
Today, March 18, House Bill 1, the major budget bill in the House, and Senate Bill 500, which includes supplemental appropriation dollars for the state budget, were heard by the House Appropriations Committee. These are two of the most important bills the Legislature is constitutionally mandated to pass.
TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in support of HB 1, stating appreciation for the focus put on the TRS pension fund and TRS-Care program.
Mentioning House Bill 9, the House’s plan to help the pension fund reach actuarial soundness, Lee said it’s important that the budget include “a funding plan that will ensure long-term solvency of the trust fund and provide some financial relief for retirees.”
Lee also said that although contributions established during the previous legislative session are maintained in the current budget bill, “health care could be improved in the overall budget discussion.”
TRS-Care faces a shortfall this session of approximately $230 million. “If we don’t raise the base contribution for TRS-Care, long-term that program will continue to destabilize,” said Lee, adding that TRTA supports ongoing budget discussions to bolster the plan. “Retirees’ pocketbooks are immediately affected by the cost of healthcare.”
When asked how the state could improve the program and lower costs for retirees, Lee stated that “TRTA recommends increasing the contribution to 2.25% of payroll.” Currently, that contribution is 1.25% of payroll.
Last week, the Texas State Senate passed SB 500, authored by Senator Jane Nelson, which includes supplemental funding for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) pension fund. As you may have read in last week’s Inside Line article (found here), the funding for Senate Bill 12 is included in SB 500. SB 12 was voted favorably out of the Senate State Affairs committee on March 14 and is similar to HB 9 in the House.
SB 500 includes money from the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), also known as the Rainy Day Fund, to help bring the TRS pension fund to actuarial soundness. By state law, the Texas Legislature cannot approve a cost-of-living increase for retirees unless the system can pay off its liabilities within 31 years or less—our state’s definition of actuarial soundness.
Today, the House Appropriations Committee proposed budget substitutes to SB 500. Per Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas, the committee substitute for SB 500 includes $1.34 billion in the budget for TRS with $658.2 million of that designated for a supplemental payment to TRS retirees. These items reflect the plan for actuarial soundness and financial relief for retirees as proposed in HB 9 and are contingent upon its passage.
TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie was called as a resource witness and discussed the change made to the fund’s rate of return assumption last summer, which brought the pension fund’s funding period to 87 years. However, based on returns from 2018, the February 28, 2019 valuation of the fund indicated the period is now 99 years. Because of this, it is vital that a plan be put into place to help the fund reach actuarial soundness.
Tim Lee testified in favor of the committee substitute for SB 500, stating that the “most important component this session is putting in place a funding plan for the long-term solvency of the pension fund.”
Lee also added “we support any help the retirees can receive financially,” stressing that both a cost-of-living (COLA) increase and supplemental payment are welcome, though retirees prefer a true COLA. “Ensuring the solvency of the fund puts that possibility on the table.”
The House Appropriations Committee adopted the committee substitute to SB 500 unanimously. The bill will now move to the House floor to be voted upon by the entire body.
The March is On to #RAISETHEBASE for the Pension Fund and TRS-Care!
March is the most crucial month for legislative action on issues that impact you and your fellow public education retirees. TRTA is moving full steam ahead and we need your help! March is the month that will make all the difference in our legislative agenda!
The Legislature is moving at a rapid pace, finalizing budget discussions, hearing bills in committee, having heated floor session debates, and we need them to be THINKING ABOUT YOU while they are doing the work of Texas!
TRTA Needs Your Help!
1. Call Your Legislators
Use our toll-free hotline 1.888.674.3788. Let’s make 25,000 phone calls in March! Make regular, once-weekly phone calls to your elected officials asking them to “Raise the Base Funding for the Pension Fund and TRS-Care!”
2. Email Your Legislators
Email your elected officials! TRTA members have sent thousands of emails so far this session. Let’s send 50,000 emails this month!
Send your email today by clicking here!
3. RSVP to TRTA Day at the Capitol
Make a plan to join us at Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 3! RSVP via Facebook here!
Thank you for your membership to TRTA. We are fighting ardently for your benefits every day at the Capitol. If you are not yet a TRTA member, please join here.