Senate State Affairs Passes Resolution Urging Congress to Repeal GPO, WEP

Today, March 25, 2019, the Senate State Affairs Committee passed a resolution urging Congress to repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) of the Social Security Act.

The resolution SCR 5, written by Senator Joan Huffman, states that “although these provisions were intended to curtail the payment of windfall benefits to highly paid government employees, in practice they have had and continue to have devastating consequences for low-income employees who worked for many years as public servants.”

As members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may know, the GPO and WEP are federal provisions that drastically reduce and sometimes even eliminate the earned Social Security benefits for millions of public employee retirees and most retired Texas public school employees. 96% of school employees in Texas do not pay in to the program.

Though the Texas Legislature cannot pass legislation to modify or repeal these provisions, they have passed this resolution urging Congress to address the unfair GPO and WEP as they are “punitive and discriminatory” and “target hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public servants.”

The resolution also states that the “vast majority of Texas school employees participate in the state’s teacher retirement system and therefore are not required to and do not participate in the Social Security system” and that “many Texas teachers and other public school employees nonetheless have earned Social Security benefits on their own behalf through other employment.”

Senator Joan Huffman said that the effect of GPO and WEP on Texans is “more acute” and that “these provisions cause veteran teachers to retire prematurely and discourage qualified individuals from entering the teaching profession at precisely the time that Texas and the nation face a severe shortage of highly qualified educators.”

She also stated that GPO and WEP “cause tens of thousands of government retirees to experience a diminished quality of life or be forced to return to work to make up for the effects of these provisions.”

Huffman continued “we are limited in what we can do but we can ask the President and Congress to please take a look at this” and expressed that it’s important for Texas to take the initiative in urging Congress to address these provisions.

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee testified in favor of SCR 5, saying “we have supported for many years the repeal of the GPO and WEP.” Although the Legislature may be limited in what can be done to address these issues, Tim said “passing this will help influence what we do on the hill to get these issues resolved.”

Tim also said that fourteen state teacher retirement systems across the nation are affected by these provisions, but that “every state in the nation has some public workers affected by the GPO and the WEP.”

TRTA continues to work with stakeholders from across the nation and with congressmen in Washington, D.C. to address these issues. Many TRTA members are aware that Congressman Kevin Brady (R – the Woodlands, Texas) dedicated his time as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to address modification of the WEP. Brady is no longer Chairman of this committee; however, his co-sponsor for past WEP bills, Congressman Richie Neal (D – Massachusetts), is now the Chairman and continues to keep focus on this vital issue.

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