The Texas House has approved a bill that would increase the monthly retirement checks for retired teachers. The proposed bill is authored by State Senator Joan Huffman and seeks to provide a cost-of-living increase for teachers who retired before 2004. The proposed increase would be 6% for this group, while retirees who left between 2004 and 2014 would receive a 4% increase, and those who retired between 2015 and 2021 would receive a 2% increase.
The bill also includes a one-time payment of $5,000 for retirees aged 70 or above, and it stipulates that annual cost-of-living increases should not exceed 2%. Active teachers would also contribute more to the teachers’ retirement fund, as the portion of their salaries that goes into the fund would be raised from 8% to 9%, with the state matching this amount.
However, the bill is conditional on Texas voters approving an amendment to the state constitution. This would allow the state to move $1.9 billion from general funds to the Teacher Retirement System to fund the cost-of-living increases.
The proposed bill has received some criticism from those who argue that it does not go far enough to help retired teachers. John Bryant, a Democratic state representative, attempted to amend the bill to increase cost-of-living payments, but was unsuccessful.
The last cost-of-living increase was given to retired teachers in 2013, but only those who retired before August 2004 were eligible. Over the past two legislative sessions, lawmakers have given retired teachers a one-time payment, commonly known as the "13th check."
More than 475,000 retired Texas teachers rely on the Teacher Retirement System for monthly payments. The average monthly payment for retired teachers is $2,174, but for those who qualify for the proposed 6% increase, their monthly check would increase to around $2,300.
While some argue that the proposed bill does not go far enough, others believe it will be a significant help to retired teachers. Nicole Hill, Communications Director for the Texas American Federation of Teachers, said seeing the bill advance in the Texas legislature was bittersweet, adding that while it may not go far enough, it is still good news to see some progress being made.
Source: The Texas Tribune