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After months of political wrangling, Texas House proposed a bill that could give retired teachers, counselors and other school staff a one-time payment of up to $ 2,400.
Senate Bill 7, which would give retired teachers in the Texas Retirement System of Texas an additional payment to offset increases in the cost of living, received preliminary approval in the House on Friday. It is expected to move to the governor’s office after securing final House approval in this year’s second special legislative session.
SB 7 was also tabled during the First Special Legislative Session, but stalled after House Democrats broke quorum and traveled to Washington, DC, to block passage of the Priority Elections Bill of the GOP.
“Our public education workers shouldn’t have to choose between eating food or going to the doctor,” said state representative Glenn Rogers, R-Graford. “This additional check will make a huge difference in many of their lives.
“Helping our retirees isn’t just about their professional benefits, it’s about showing current educators and [future]educators that the state will be there for them.
The bill had become a political club as Democrats remained in Washington until the start of the second special session. Republican lawmakers accused Democrats of leaving retired school staff on hold with their pension checks.
This bill effectively provides additional payments to all educators in the Texas Teacher Retirement System who stopped working before this year. The payment has been dubbed a “13th check” – an addition to the monthly pension checks of retired teachers.
Tens of thousands of Texas educators are eligible to receive this additional allowance.
Democrats, however, fended off the Republican narrative that they are to blame for the bill’s late passage.
Many pointed to this year’s regular session of the Legislature, when a House bill was proposed that would have provided a similar additional payment for retired educators. House Bill 3507, proposed by State Representative Vikki Goodwin D-Austin, was never passed in the Republican-controlled chamber after being passed by a committee.
Republicans at the time cited lack of public funds as a reason for not putting the bipartisan bill, which had more than 100 co-sponsors, to a vote. According to the state, the SB 7 would cost $ 701.1 million.
“There has been a substantial increase in the funds available from [regular sessions]now, ”Rogers said from upstairs, explaining why the Republican had changed his mind. “With this additional funding, we are much more able to find a 13th check now than during the general session.”
In May, near the end of the regular legislative session, the Texas Comptroller’s Office released a revised estimate to say that Texas was able to have “continued economic growth throughout the next biennium,” in the middle. of the pandemic. Originally, a darker picture was painted.
Despite political maneuvering, the plan to give teachers an extra check received relatively strong support from both sides. It passed the Texas Senate with a 29-0 vote.
The few critics of the bill were less against the additional payment and more in favor of structural changes to the retirement system for retired educators.
The American Federation of Teachers of Texas, the union of educators, has advocated for a permanent increase in the cost of living instead of a one-time payment. Retired teachers in Texas have not received a cost of living increase since 2013.
“[SB 7 is] a much needed step for immediate relief; [but]an increase in the cost of living in the near future is desperately needed, ”the union wrote in a statement after the vote.
“Most retired educators from the Texas Teacher Retirement System have not received a pension increase for over 16 years. TRS is in the financial position to offer a cost of living increase (COLA), and many state lawmakers generally support the idea, but the lawmakers who run the state budget want to consider a COLA when it comes down to it. session of 2023, ”the union said. written in a separate statement.
State lawmakers addressed this issue in 2019, when they implemented a cost-of-living adjustment and instead made a one-time payment of $ 2,000 to educators. The increase in the cost of living has been particularly significant for the teachers’ union as most educators in Texas do not participate in Social Security and have the TRS pension as their sole source of retirement income.
Disclosure: Texas AFT has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.
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