Education retirees focus on insurance, retirement in upcoming Legislative session
One-time supplemental pay, health insurance and retirement plans are the priorities for public school retirees during the upcoming Legislative session.
Dr. Wayne Berryman, president of the Smith County Retired Teachers and School Personnel Association, said Tuesday that the Texas Retired Teachers Association will encourage legislators to restore state funding for retiree healthcare to at least 1 percent of the aggregate public school payroll.
The Legislature funds retiree healthcare at .5 percent, but previously funded it at the 1 percent level, Berryman said.
Increasing the funding percentage should keep the health care fund sound for up to four years, Berryman said.
However, by 2016, the fund is expected to have a deficit unless the state increases its financial support.
Another concern is several high-profile Texans are pushing for the Legislature to change teacher retirement from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan.
Under a defined benefit plan, retirees have guaranteed retirement for life, Berryman said.
In a defined contribution plan, the state guarantees nothing, Berryman said. Individual educators make decisions about how their retirement is invested and live on the outcome.
Citing a Teacher Retirement System report, Berryman said changing to a defined contribution system would cost the state more money and give educator retirees fewer benefits, which are among the reasons they oppose the idea.
Finally, Berryman said retirees will push for a 13th check.
An extra check, last awarded in 2007, would give them a one-time supplement, with the money coming from the Teacher Retirement System. Retirees last received a permanent annuity increase in 2001, Berryman said.
Berryman said despite these concerns, he is optimistic about the future.
"I think that there is support among a lot of legislators to want to help retirees," he said.
About 100 people attended the Tuesday meeting. Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association, was scheduled to speak but unable to attend.