Pensions Committee Considering Ways to Help Retirees

During a May 4 meeting, the Texas House Pensions Committee reviewed seven bills that if passed would provide benefit increases for annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) was present at the hearing, with many members attending and testifying. Below is a list of bills that were considered during Monday’s hearing.

  • HB 45 (Martinez, “Mando”): Relating to a cost-of-living increase applicable to benefits paid by TRS.
  • HB 701 (Allen): Relating to certain benefits paid by the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS).
  • HB 1149 (Hernandez): Relating to a cost-of-living increase applicable to benefits paid by TRS.
  • HB 1967 (Keffer): Relating to a supplemental payment for retirees of TRS and the unfunded actuarial liabilities allowed under that system.
  • HB 2873 (Allen): Relating to benefits paid by the TRS.
  • HB 3259 (Herrero): Relating to a cost-of-living adjustment applicable to certain benefits paid by TRS.
  • HB 2974 (Flynn): Relating to contributions to, benefits from, and the administration of systems.

TRTA is grateful to House Pensions Chairman Dan Flynn (R – Canton) for allowing these bills to be heard in committee.

All of the bills reviewed during the hearing were left pending in committee. Several additional steps would be required in order for any of the bills to pass and for TRS retirees to receive some form of benefit increase. The bills must first be passed out of the House committee, voted on by the entire body of the Texas House of Representatives, sent to a Senate Committee and passed out of committee to the entire body of the Texas Senate, then sent to the Governor.

TRTA is working with legislators closely to help retirees, with a focus on finishing that job that was started during the 83rd Legislative Session. As you may recall, Senate Bill 1458 was passed in 2013 and made the TRS pension fund actuarially sound for the first time in many years. As a result of the bill’s passage, more than 200,000 TRS retirees were able to receive their first permanent cost-of-living increase since 2001.

However, more than 100,000 TRS retirees did not benefit from the raise. The TRS pension fund has the capability to provide such an increase to these remaining retirees at this point in time. However, as our members have learned throughout the years, a pension increase can only be approved with action by the Texas Legislature.

TRTA fully supports legislation that would provide some type of benefit increase to TRS annuitants this session. TRS retirees live on fixed incomes and must rely upon action from the Texas Legislature to improve their livelihood. 95% of school districts in Texas do not pay into the federal Social Security program, meaning the vast majority of TRS retirees do not receive additional monthly income beyond their average monthly TRS annuity of $1900.

As the 84th Legislative Session draws to a close, we have much work to do! In the Texas Senate, many of our friends on both sides of the aisle are also considering ways to assist retirees this session. Sen. Jose Menendez (D – San Antonio) is attempting to pass legislation that would help retirees with an actuarially sound benefit increase.

Many other bills are also competing for time on the calendar. We appreciate Sen. Menendez and the members of the Senate who have worked to support ideas helping TRS retirees.

The entire Senate is rallying to the work being done by the Senate Finance Committee and its chairman, Sen. Jane Nelson (R – Flower Mound), that addresses our health care funding needs. The Texas House took action last month to fully fund TRS-Care, and the Senate is working on this plan now, as well. TRTA will send a brief update about action on the TRS-Care plan later today.

Thank You!

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.

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