Groups focused on a narrow ideological agenda are supporting nationwide efforts to dismantle retirement plans providing secure benefits for public employees. In Texas, hedge-fund speculators and private-school-voucher proponents are campaigning to destroy traditional pension systems for our teachers, firefighters, police, and other state and local government employees.
In our state, public pension plans are supported by shared contributions from the employees and from the state or local government employers. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) fund and most other plans are in strong financial condition, are responsibly and professionally managed, and pay benefits that are modest but secure. Investment returns have helped lift funds on hand to record-high levels, but TRS may soon lower its official projection of future investment gains, which could trigger the need for increased contributions or put downward pressure on benefits.
The most important factor in ensuring pension financial health is maintaining necessary contribution levels. State contributions to TRS have fluctuated over time depending on the will of legislators. In some years—including all 12 years from 1995 to 2007–state contributions were cut to the constitutional minimum.
The vast majority of public school employees and local public workers in Texas are not covered by Social Security. Their only pension comes from the public retirement system, like TRS, to which they contribute.
Oppose efforts to weaken or dismantle state or local public pension systems—efforts such as converting secure, efficient defined-benefit plans, which guarantee a pension, into 401(k)-style defined-contribution plans, where each employee would bear all the risk for investment returns while being charged high administrative fees.
Support maintaining and increasing the state contribution to TRS as necessary for long-term sustainability of benefits.