TRS Employees Should NOT have Been in Bill, says Representative Sheets
House Bill 1974, filed by State Representative Kenneth Sheets (R, HD-107), calls for all new public employees (including active school employees) hired after September 1, 2012 to participate in a defined contribution plan rather than the current defined benefit plan.
TRTA has spoken with Representative Sheets about this legislation and he has confirmed that it was not his intention to include public school employees in the bill. While the current bill language does include public school employees, Representative Sheets said if the bill receives a committee hearing he will file a committee substitute for the bill removing any reference to public school employees (active or retired).
Representative Sheets said this legislation was intended to create a defined contribution plan for newly hired state employees. TRTA has not confirmed if it was Representative Sheets’ intention to exclude legislators and judges from the bill, but we will speak with him next week to gain clarity.
TRTA opposes HB 1974. Eliminating participation in defined benefit plans will not save money for the state of Texas. In fact, this legislation as drafted may have a considerable cost attached to it. While some hope that the elimination of traditional retirement plans will provide significant savings for the state, this is simply not true. TRTA is grateful to Representative Sheets for clarifying his intent; however, we still oppose any measure that undermines defined benefit pension plans in Texas. We will continue to work with Representative Sheets on this issue to ensure that all Texans recognize the value of our state’s defined benefit plans.
TRTA will report more on this bill in the coming weeks. Please know that we will put all of our effort this session into defeating any measure that undermines the TRS defined benefit plan.
Additional Bills Introduced for Public Education Retirees
HB 2120, filed by Representative Doug Miller (R, HD-73), adds another TRS annuitant to the TRS Board of Trustees.
HB 2150, filed by Representative Craig Eiland (D, HD-23), provides retirees with a supplemental payment paid for out of the TRS pension trust fund (this bill is similar to HB 1699 as filed by Representative Menendez).
TRTA will post its complete “bill tracker” on our web site next week.
Many of you have asked about the state’s use of the “Rainy Day” fund as a way to help retirees and our public schools. This week, Representative Jim Pitts (R, HD-10), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, filed HB 275. If passed, this bill would allow the state to use over $4 billion from the “Rainy Day” fund to reduce funding shortfalls for the current biennium. If this plan is embraced by the legislature, it still leaves over $5 billion in the fund to be used for the coming biennium. State Comptroller Susan Combs testified this week that the use of ALL of the “Rainy Day” fund will NOT affect the state’s bond rating. TRTA is asking legislators to restore funding to the TRS pension trust fund and the TRS-Care program. Now, legislators know they have a potential funding source.
We will continue to work for your interests this session. Please tell your friends and fellow TRS retirees there is still hope for this legislative session, but much work must be done. We need every TRS retiree working to restore funding to our pension and health care funds. We will launch new advocacy campaigns next week. Thank you for your willingness to participate and for your continued membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association. If you are not a member, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650 or visit www.trta.org for membership information.
Thank you and have a great weekend!