- James Jeffrey
- Contributing Writer – Austin Business Journal
- March 21, 2013
The Texas House’s public gallery was a sea of red Wednesday as hundreds of retired teachers and school personnel rallied to voice their legislative concerns to state lawmakers.
The Texas Retired Teachers Association had clearly got the message out as hordes clad in red T-shirts lined up to enter the chamber and show support for State Sen. Robert Deuell’s Senate Bill 643 and State Rep. Larry Gonzales’ House Bill 103, which would provide immediate financial relief in the form of a 13th check for retired school personnel who haven’t received a permanent cost-of-living increase in 12 years.
Also given a thumbs up by TRTA members was State Rep. Jim Keffer’s House Bill 1383, which would raise the state’s contribution to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas pension fund and enable the fund to reach actuarial soundness. The bill calls for a state contribution of 6.9 percent in fiscal 2014 and 7.4 percent in fiscal 2015.
The TRS has earned more than $50 billion since the major market declines in 2008 and 2009 by wisely managing its assets, according to the TRTA. The pension fund puts more than $7 billion into the state economy every year in benefit payments.
The TRTA’s 76,000 members are part of a much larger pool in Texas of retired school personnel and represent a major consumer group, said Richard Briggs, who is on the TRTA’s legislative committee. The vast majority of retirees remain in Texas and spend in Texas.
Educating future employees depends on good teachers, retired teacher Pat Toland said. Good incentives such as competitive pay and a sound pension are needed to attract quality teachers.
Other bills supported by the TRTA include HB 99, HB 175, HB 472, HB 498, HB 531, HB 602, HB 1474 and HB 3821.
“Everyone knows how important teachers are,” retired teacher Mary Ann Dolezal said.