Josh McGee, a prominent critic of guaranteed retirement benefits for public employees, will now be chairing the State Pension Review Board, thanks to a two-thirds vote in the Texas Senate Thursday. McGee’s appointment by Gov. Greg Abbott was snagged for weeks because of grass-roots opposition that translated into a blocking minority of 11 senators depriving McGee of the required two-thirds support needed in the 31-member Senate. But Thursday afternoon Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) seized a chance to call for a vote on the McGee nomination when only 10 of the opposing 11 were present. With Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) absent, the vote on the McGee nomination was 20 for, 10 against–exactly the support from two-thirds of those present that the law required.
Now confirmed as chair of the State Pension Review Board, McGee will be in a strong position to continue his campaign of criticizing guaranteed benefits and promoting defined-contribution alternatives, which limit state obligations to retirees and provide no assured level of retirement security. McGee also can be expected to continue his collaboration with Sen. Huffman on legislation in furtherance of this agenda.
A note on Huffman: Besides playing a problematic role on retirement benefits, Sen. Huffman this session has compiled quite a record of other legislative activity adverse to education employees and public education. She is the author of SB 13, the proposal to ban voluntary dues deductions by education employees and other targeted public employees. She cast a key vote in support of private-school vouchers on the Senate floor–at a point when that bill (SB 3) could not have advanced to Senate passage without her vote. (Fortunately the House seems unlikely to let that bill become law.) She is the author of major legislation (SB 788) to put the main burden of TRS retirees’ rising health-care costs on retirees themselves, even though the state could ease that burden by tapping a small fraction of the $12 billion available in the Rainy Day Fund. Huffman professes nonetheless to be a friend of teachers and retirees. But actions speak louder than words.