Texas Senate Passes Thirteenth Check Bill

On Tuesday, July 13, the Texas Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 7, filed by Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston). The bill would provide for a one-time supplemental payment for Texas public education retirees who retired on or before December 31, 2020, not to exceed $2,400.

Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) may view the Senate floor debate by clicking this link. Footage pertaining to SB 7 begins at about 12 minutes into the video and continues for half an hour.

Senator Huffman laid out SB 7, stating that her bill benefits hundreds of thousands of Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) retirees. “We are not just talking about teachers,” Huffman reminded Senators, as TRS also supports “librarians, school nurses, counselors, custodial and support staff and bus drivers.”

“After the pandemic, retirees deserve another thirteenth this year more than ever and it is needed,” she added. The last supplemental payment for TRS retirees passed in 2019 during the 86th Legislative Session.

“I know we all want to continue to support our retired teachers for their years of dedication and public service,” said Huffman.

As mentioned in an Inside Line last week, the thirteenth check from SB 7 will be funded from general revenue, not financed from the TRS pension fund, at a cost of approximately $700 million.

Senator Eddie Lucio (D – Brownsville) commented during the debate, saying the Legislature is “doing the right thing for a group that’s very deserving,” adding that he hopes “we can continue in the future to improve the quality of life for those men and women in the education field.”

Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R – Brenham) thanked Governor Greg Abbott for adding the thirteenth check to the special session call and referenced the updated revenue estimate from Comptroller Glenn Hegar that made funding SB 7 possible. Kolkhorst asked about providing a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), noting that “30 percent of TRS retirees receive $1,000 per month.”

Huffman responded, “We are in the forever business… We have to look at the long-term investments that we make.” She said that the funding for the check will not be taken out of the pension fund “because it costs a lot more…it has to be financed.” Using state revenue to pay for the thirteenth check upfront “saves taxpayers billions of dollars in the long run.”

“We have to be really careful about COLAs . . . We’ll keep working on that, but we have a responsibility to keep this fund sound,” Huffman said.

Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D – McAllen) said, “One of the concerns . . . is they (TRS retirees) are actually on fixed incomes, yet at the same time, the cost of living continues to increase.” Hinojosa said the thirteenth check will be a big help to his constituents who are retired school employees.

Senator Judith Zaffirini (D – Laredo), a former teacher, added, “This is the best way to show that appreciation (of retired teachers) . . . actions speak louder than words.”

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said after the bill passed that it would be great to pass a thirteenth check every session for TRS retirees.

What’s Next for SB 7

Now that SB 7 has passed the Senate, it will be sent to the Texas House for consideration. We have heard from many TRTA members who are concerned about the fate of SB 7 (or HB 85, the companion bill that passed in the House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee last week).

Actions in the Texas House are on hold until a quorum of Representatives can be reached. While this is outside the control of TRTA, we remain focused on the task at hand. There is still time left on the special session clock, which may last up to thirty days.

The will to pass some financial relief for our deserving retired educators is strong and has tremendous support from both sides of the aisle. TRTA will continue to keep members informed as progress is made on SB 7 and any other bills that benefit TRS retirees.

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