On Saturday the Senate Finance Committee heard SB 19, a salary proposal that also includes longevity bonuses and additional funding for TRS-Care. Sunday, Senate Business & Commerce heard SB 7, which prohibits payroll deduction of association dues; and Senate Education considered bills to provide funding for teacher salaries.

Salaries/TRS-Care

TCTA’s Lonnie Hollingsworth testified on SB 19, which includes three components:

  • Longevity bonuses, to be paid beginning September 2018, of $600 for teachers with 6-10 years of experience and $1,000 for teachers with 11 or more years. The bonus would be funded in 2018 through an accounting maneuver involving delayed payments to managed care organizations (MCOs). Future funding is not identified.
  • A teacher pay raise beginning in 2019. The amount of the raise (and who gets it) would be left up to districts but districts would be required to spend the equivalent of $1,000 per teacher on salaries. Funding is not specified but comments from Senate leadership have indicated that a dedication of existing lottery funds to teacher salaries is the preferred source.
  • A supplemental increase of $212 million to TRS-Care to help reduce premiums and/or deductibles. This provision would also be funded by the deferred MCO payments. Depending on how the funding would be allocated, this amount could reduce the planned deductible of $3,000 for pre-65 retirees to $1,500; reductions in premiums for Medicare-eligible retirees is also possible and the committee discussed reducing premiums for retirees with disabled adult dependents.

TCTA expressed our appreciation to the Senate for considering pay raises and for their recognition of the value of teacher experience, but also noted concerns about the bill. The $1,000 salary requirement is problematic because without additional funding it would require districts to raise taxes or reallocate existing dollars, which can result in program cuts or personnel reductions. Sen. Jane Nelson commented throughout the hearing that she considered that portion of the bill to be a “bridge,” with the funding source to be reevaluated in the 2019 legislative session, before that provision would go into effect the following fall.  

SB 19 passed out of the Senate Education Committee on a 10-3 vote, with the opposing senators (Uresti, Watson and Whitmire) noting their concerns about the lack of any future funding – such as increasing the state’s contribution rate to TRS-Care, rather than approving only a one-time supplemental increase - to continue these proposals beyond 2018.

Salary funding

In a related hearing Sunday, Hollingsworth provided testimony on legislation that would dedicate existing lottery funds for the purpose of teacher salary increases. It is important to note that these funds are already dedicated to public education, and this legislation would not add any dollars, only re-direct existing monies.

However, during the meeting SB 97 author Sen. Charles Perry announced that he intended a re-write of his legislation to address salary funding differently, in a way that might still incorporate lottery funding but that would likely involve funding through school finance formulas – for example, requiring that a certain percentage of new funding be spent on teacher salaries.

Because the SB 97 re-write is not completed, another hearing is likely, and the committee did not vote on either bill.

Payroll deduction prohibition

Also on Sunday, TCTA’s Ann Fickel testified against SB 7 and SB 94 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, both of which would prohibit government entities from allowing employees to payroll deduct professional association dues. The legislation is essentially the same as the version that passed the Senate during the regular session but stalled in the House. Police, firefighters and emergency personnel would be exempted.

Despite hours of testimony from witnesses opposed to the bills, SB 7 passed 6-3 (Sens. Nichols, Whitmire and Zaffirini voting no).