AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas voters approved an amendment to the state constitution on Tuesday that will grant billions of dollars to the Teacher Retirement System for a cost-of-living adjustment.
The win at the ballot box marks a victory for the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), and association executive director Tim Lee told KXAN it’s a win retirees worked toward for years.
“This is one of those feel good moments where there’s a bipartisan issue that had tremendous support in the legislative process,” Lee said. “We are so fortunate, and we feel so good and thankful to the people of Texas that recognizes it’s a big issue.”
The proposition approved by voters emerged as a consequence of the state legislature passing Senate Bill 10 in May. Lee spoke to KXAN in June, a week following passage.
“So many of our retirees, because they’ve been living in this high-inflation environment and they haven’t had regular raises over the years, are living on credit cards, they’re living on savings that are getting depleted,” Lee said in June. “Retirees are basically digging themselves out of a hole and can use these funds to help them get out of that hole so that they can manage their ongoing expenses a little bit better.”
The proposition received approximately 24,000 more yes votes than Proposition 4 (property tax relief), for which Lee said he’s thankful. However, he said that more will need to be done in the future.
“Long term in the state, we want to continue to maintain the fiscal stability of our retirement system so that all future education retirees can continue to depend on that,” Lee said. “Because this is a one-time increase, we know that inflation will continue to affect retirees, and that we’re going to have to continue to work with the legislators and stakeholders so that we don’t go 20 more years without giving a raise to these folks.”
The issue, Lee notes, matters as much to current and future public education workers as it does to retirees.
“When we talk about good pension policy, what we’re really talking about is some form of deferred compensation. We are promising a secure retirement for people who make a career in working with our public education system,” Lee said. “We need to be more proactive — it will encourage people to stay in these teaching positions, because turnover is far more expensive in the education profession than a lot of us even realize.”