Texas retired teachers are closer to getting the “13th check” after House passes legislation

After months of political fights, Texas House has advanced a bill that could give retired teachers, counselors and other school staff members a one-time payment of up to $ 2,400.

Senate Bill 7, which would give retired teachers in the Texas retirement system an extra pay to offset cost-of-living increases, got preliminary approval Friday in the House. He is expected to move to the governor’s office after obtaining final approval in the House during this year’s second special legislative session.

SB 7 had also run during the first special legislative session, but stalled after House Democrats broke the quorum and went to Washington, DC, to block approval of the priority election bill. of the Republican Party.

“Our public education employees shouldn’t have to choose between eating or going to the doctor,” said R-Graford State Representative Glenn Rogers. “This additional control will make a big difference in many of their lives.

“Offering our retirees is not just about their professional benefits, but about showing current educators and [future] educators that the state will be in favor of ”.

The bill had become a political pole as Democrats remained in Washington until the start of the second special session. Republican lawmakers accused Democrats of leaving retired school staff hanging on the scales with their retirement checks.

This bill effectively provides the supplementary payments to all educators in the Texas teacher retirement system who stopped working earlier this year. The payment has been dubbed the “13th check,” a supplement to the retired teachers ’monthly pension checks.

Tens of thousands of Texas educators are eligible to receive this additional expense.

Democrats, however, have pushed back the Republican narrative that they are to blame for the delay in passing the bill.

Many pointed to this year’s regular session of the legislature, when a House bill was proposed that would have provided a similar extra pay for retired educators. House Bill 3507, which was authored by Rogers, also never went to a vote in the Republican-controlled House after it went through a committee.

Many Republicans of the time cited the lack of state funding as a reason for not voting on the bipartisan bill, which had more than 100 co-authors. According to the state, SB 7 would cost $ 701.1 million.

“There was a substantial increase in the funds available from the [regular sessions] so far, “Rogers said on the floor of the House, explaining why the Republican changed his mind.” With this extra funding, we are much more in a position to find a 13th check now than in the general session. “

In May, toward the end of the regular legislative session, the Texas controller’s office issued a revised revision estimate to say Texas was in a position to “continue economic growth over the next two years,” amid the pandemic. Originally, a darker picture had been painted.

Despite the political game, the plan to give extra control to teachers has enjoyed strong support from both sides. It was passed in the Texas Senate with a 29-0 vote.

The few detractors of the bill have argued less against overpayment and more for structural changes to the pension system of retired educators.

The American Federation of Teachers of Texas, the union for educators, has advocated a permanent increase in the cost of living rather than a one-time payment. Retired teachers in Texas have not received an increase in the cost of living since 2013.

“[SB 7 is] a much-needed step for immediate relief; [but] an increase in the cost of living is desperately needed in the near future, ”the union wrote in a statement after the vote.

“Most retired educators in the Texas teacher retirement system have not received an increase in pensions in more than 16 years. TRS is in the financial position to offer a rising cost of living (COLA), and many state lawmakers generally support the idea, but lawmakers pushing the state budget want to consider a COLA in the 2023 session. ” write in a separate statement.

State lawmakers visited this issue in 2019, when they opted for a cost-of-living adjustment and gave a one-time payment to $ 2,000 educators. The rising cost of living has been of particular importance to the teachers union, because most Texas educators do not participate in Social Security and have the TRS pension as their only source of income after retirement.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/28/texas-retired-teachers-13th-check/.

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