Special Update with More Details to Come!
Today, February 11, the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony from the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) about the state of the TRS pension fund and the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program.
While the news is good about the pension fund, concern about TRS-Care was expressed not only by the LBB and TRS but by several Senators serving on the committee as well.
The LBB’s current recommendations for funding TRS-Care include the standard state contribution of 1% of active employee payroll. Over the summer, TRS requested exceptional funding in the amount of $875 million to cover an imminent shortfall to the health care program. That request now sits at $768 million and is based on claims payments through December 2014.
Earlier this year, the LBB released a Government Effectiveness and Efficiency Report (GEER), which included several recommendations for resolving the funding crisis for TRS-Care. Beginning on page 367, the LBB’s recommendations include increasing contributions from the state, active educators, school districts and including a premium increase for retirees. Premium increases in the GEER report for TRS retirees are suggested to be as high as 25 percent!
In order to increase retiree premiums, the Legislature would have to delete the past budget language that expressed legislative intent that the TRS not increase retiree premiums from the 2016–17 General Appropriations Bill.
TRTA does not support increasing retiree premiums. Tim Lee, TRTA Executive Director, testified at today’s hearing that state education retirees have received only one annuity increase in 12-years. If the legislature did not fund the TRS request for additional health care dollars, more than 60% of that increase will be taken back just to keep up with premium increases.
Considering that not all education retirees received the increase, massive premium hikes on our TRS-Care participants would be financially devastating.
In addition, Mr. Lee called on the Legislature to fully-fund the TRS-Care appropriation request and to work together with all stakeholders to develop a long-term solution.
Tom Rogers, TRTA member and long-time advocate supporter, offered powerful testimony about the need for affordable health care. Expressing that as a TRS retiree, the need to manage every dollar on a fixed income is vital to just meeting basic costs of living.
Multiple Texas Senate Finance Committee members resonated these comments and supported TRTA and TRS initiatives to find solutions to the TRS-Care crisis this session!
…More to Come tomorrow on this developing story!
TRTA Member Action Sets Records
Our TRTA members are following this legislative session and the discussion about our TRS benefits very closely! We are so grateful to our members for generating over 2,800 emails in less than a 24-hour period. Legislators need to hear from you. Your voice is the most important tool in our advocacy efforts.
Thank you for sending a very strong, positive, and LOUD message to the Texas Senate as we discuss these vital budget issues.
Tomorrow we will post our complete update and review of today’s Senate Finance Committee hearing. Included in that update will be our TRTA TV news video update!
Please be sure to stay tuned into the Inside Line throughout the 84th Legislative Session, as we will be bringing you all the latest updates on our broad legislative agenda, including any bills concerning TRS-Care, the continued funding of the TRS pension trust fund, pension increases for all TRS retirees, and also congressional issues such as the WEP and GPO.
Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). If you are not a member of TRTA and want more information about joining, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. Follow us on Facebook! Visit our YouTube channel for regular video updates.