Texans to decide constitutional amendment on cost-of-living adjustments for Teacher Retirement System in November

On May 25, the Texas Legislature took the final vote to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would authorize the legislature to provide for cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for certain annuitants, who meet criteria provided by law, of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. The amendment also authorizes the legislature to allocate money from the general fund to pay for the adjustment.

The amendment, House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 2), passed the state House by a vote of 147-0 with three not voting on April 28. The state Senate passed an amended version of HJR 2 on May 22 by a vote of 31-0. The state House concurred on May 25 by a vote of 140-0 with nine not voting.

The implementing legislation, Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), passed the state Senate, was amended by the state House, and is headed to a conference between the chambers after the Senate did not concur with the House amendments. Under the House amended version of SB 10, annuitants would receive an annual gain sharing cost-­of­-living adjustment not to exceed 2% annually and contingent upon a five-year average pension fund investment return of 7%. The gain-sharing cost-of-living adjustment would take effect in Sept. 2028 and apply to annuitants who have been retired for at least three state fiscal years. The amended bill would also provide for a one-time cost-of-living adjustment in Jan. 2024. The rate would vary by the amount of time an annuitant has been retired ranging from 2% to 6% of a cost-of-living adjustment.

The Teacher Retirement System is considered actuarially sound with an authorization period of 27 years according to the Pension Review Board.

Legislative Chair for the Texas Retired Teachers Association Ricky Chandler said, “I think it’ll be a big help especially to the retired teachers and staff, not only teachers but everybody that’s a school employee.” He also said, “The inflation has really hurt teachers and employees that have retired years and years ago, some of them are just barely making it.”

Nicole Hill, communications director for the Texas American Federation of Teachers, said, “Good news is we saw movement, and we haven’t seen that in years,” she said. “But it just doesn’t go far enough. This is essentially crumbs.”

This is the ninth amendment to be certified for statewide ballots in Texas for Nov. 2023. Between 1985 and 2021, an average of 14 measures appeared on statewide ballots in odd-numbered-year elections in Texas.

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