The Texas House Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved two bills that would use the state’s rainy day fund to give current teachers a $1,000 pay raise as well as cut health insurance costs for retired teachers.
House Bill 24, filed by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, which would raise minimum salaries for teachers, librarians and counselors in statute as well as give them a $1,000 annual raise starting next school year, to the tune of $848 million over the next two years. The panel also heard HB 20 by Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, which would inject $213 million into the Teacher Retirement System of Texas to reduce health insurance premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.
Both bills would be paid for through the state’s $10 billion savings account known as the rainy day fund, but Ashby said on Thursday he’d be willing to look at other methods of financing the bill.
“At the end of the day, I think what we all want is to walk away from this special session with some type of assistance for our retired teachers,” he said.
The Senate, which has passed its version of a bill to give teachers bonuses as well as to boost the teacher retirement system, has indicated it is unwilling to use the rainy day fund. Chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has said it was not a permanent solution.
The Senate’s $405 million proposal is paid for by delaying payments to Medicaid managed care organizations in the upcoming two-year budget cycle to the following biennium.
Similar to SB 19, HB 20 would cut in half expected deductibles for teacher retirees under the age of 65 to $1,500 and lower premiums for retirees over 65 and their spouses by $100 to $490, among other reductions. The bills are meant to curb the rising costs that are supposed to go into effect in January after lawmakers made some changes to the plans during the regular legislative session that ended in May.
Lawmakers increased costs to retirees to partially plug a $1 billion funding hole in the retirement system expected for the 2018-2019 biennium, but even with SB 19 or HB 20, the retirement system is expected to see a $500 million to $700 million funding shortfall in the 2020-2021 biennium.