AUSTIN (KXAN) — A payment, promised to nearly half a million retired Texas educators and school employees, likely won’t ever make it to their bank accounts.
House Bill 3214 would have provided a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to all retirees, but it has stalled in the legislature.
Joe Ramirez, president of the Austin Retired Teachers Association, said the bill never made it to the House floor for a vote despite being voted out of committee and scheduled to be placed on the calendar last month.
This comes despite having vocally wide support from Texas senators and representatives who have signed on as co-sponsors and have made promises to their constituents to get the job done.
“These are our funds, where we can afford to give a cost of living adjustment to our TRS retirees,” Ramirez said. “This will help all of us, whether it is for medical expenses, to pay off bills, to buy groceries.”
According to the Texas Retired Teachers Association, there has not been a COLA since 2013 when one was provided for members who retired before 2004. For everyone else, no COLA was granted, meaning members who have been retired for 17 years have yet to benefit from an adjustment.
The fund is more than stable, members said, after they’ve been asked to contribute more during the last legislative session. It now is valued at just under $178 billion.
“I don’t trust anyone anymore in the legislature. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all pandering,” said Julie Campbell, a retired Eanes ISD teacher. “This is about the people who have dedicated their lives. This is about the custodians and the cafeteria workers who are in the TRS System. For the people who didn’t even earn a teacher’s salary.”
Ramirez said if this bill doesn’t survive the 2021 legislative session he plans to lobby to create a bill that would give control of the retirement funds to a board of directors and not state lawmakers. The TRS is the sixth-largest U.S. public pension fund, however, it is not tied to the state’s general revenue nor to any Federal Social Security. As a result, 96% of Texas public school employees do not receive Social Security benefits.
Rep. Drew Darby, a co-sponsor of the bill, expressed disappointment the bill was not considered in the House on Thursday.
“Texas’ dedicated and deserving retired teachers should feel secure in their retirement benefits. I would have liked the House to also consider passing a Cost of Living Adjustment and a 13th check authored by my colleagues Representative Giovanni Capriglione and Representative Glenn Rogers. It is my hope that in the near future, the House will consider both of these measures as well.”-Rep. Drew Darby
One of the bill’s authors, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, did not immediately respond to comment.
There is still a slight chance the bill survives. It would have to be attached to a different bill scheduled to be discussed over the next three weeks. There is also a companion Senate bill that is still in committee.