TRS Presents Legislative Appropriations Request to Budget Board

Executive Summary

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  • The value of the TRS pension fund is $183.5 billion
  • TRS has nearly 2 million active and retired members
  • The pension fund is actuarially sound
  • TRTA believes that the Texas Legislature needs to pass a cost-of-living increase to help retirees!

TRS Testimony to LBB

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) presented its legislative appropriations request (LAR) to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) and the Governor’s Office of Budget and Planning on Wednesday, September 21.

The LBB is a permanent joint committee of the Texas Legislature that develops budget and policy recommendations for legislative appropriations and completes fiscal analyses for proposed legislation. The meeting is a standard part of the process for all state agencies ahead of the next legislative session.

TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie presented the agency’s FY 2024-25 budget request, which includes contribution increases from the state, employers, and active employees in the final installment from SB 12 passed in 2019 to make the system actuarially sound. The state and active member contributions will increase to 8.25%, while school district/employer contributions will increase to 1.9% and finally 2%.

Key points from TRS presentation:

  • The pension trust fund has a value of approximately $183.5 billion as of August 31, 2022
  • TRS now has nearly 2 million active and retired members
  • The average monthly annuity of a TRS retiree is $2,145
  • TRS paid out approximately $11 billion in retirement benefits in 2021
  • TRS expects to be paying out $1 billion per month in retirement benefits by October or November of this year
  • The TRS-Care retiree health insurance plan has approximately 219,000 participants
  • The pension fund had a one-year return of negative 6.7 percent, a number that met expectations and exceeded benchmarks in most categories in a negative-return year for markets
  • TRS will present an actuarial valuation on the pension fund at the December TRS Board of Trustees meeting
  • At that time, TRS expects to have a funding period of 26 years to pay off the system’s unfunded liabilities, which meets the threshold of 31 years or less in statute for the system to be considered actuarially sound
  • A TRS regional office will open in El Paso next month, housed in the education service center. TRS included a rider in their request to allow funding if it is determined that another regional office could be opened elsewhere in the state
  • TRS would like to add a capital expense of $8 million for a fraud protection system to protect member data

Director Guthrie highlighted the fact that the pension fund is actuarially sound, remarking that there have been significant discussions during the interim between legislative sessions about providing a benefit enhancement to TRS retirees. He said TRS is hearing from members that inflationary pressure is impacting them negatively, adding that TRS cannot ask for a benefit increase for retirees per statute.

TRTA Public Comments to LBB

Brock Gregg, the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) Associate Director Strategic Partnerships and Member Outreach, presented comments on behalf of the association. He opened his testimony by expressing appreciation of including the increased funding contributions passed in SB 12 in the TRS base appropriations request, as it “keeps our system sound.”

Gregg continued by stating that “retired teachers need a cost-of-living adjustment . . . they haven’t had one in 18 years,” emphasizing that this is both “a travesty and bad public policy.” He added that TRTA hopes the Legislature will use some of the budget surplus available next session “to do whatever they can do to make the largest dent possible” in increasing retirees’ monthly annuities.

“They are being hit very hard,” said Gregg of TRS’ 450,000-plus retirees. “We urge you to pay attention to the fact that…if you retired in 2005, the effects of inflation are around 57%.”

He also reminded the LBB members that about a quarter of TRS retirees receive less than $1,000 per month. “You can’t live on that,” he said. “We need to really look at what has happened to these folks and try to catch them up as much as we can, this session,” concluded Gregg.

As members of TRTA know, only the Legislature can approve a COLA for TRS retirees. TRTA has been testifying to interim committees throughout the summer about the need for the Legislature to provide a substantial and meaningful COLA in the upcoming session.

Your Membership Matters!

Our members know that the ongoing fight for a much-needed COLA begins now, not when the next legislative session begins in January 2023. That is just one reason your membership matters so much! TRTA is a strong, organized advocacy group only because we have members who are willing to support us, every step of the way on the path to a COLA.

This week’s hearings were great examples of the groundwork we must start laying now. Please, if you have not done so already, renew your dues today. And ask your friends and former colleagues to join with us in this very important fight! The more members we have, the louder and stronger our voice becomes!

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