Before breaking into subcommittees as soon as those are named, the full House Appropriations Committee is meeting this week to receive briefings on major areas of the budget and anticipated briefings, including TRS funding Tuesday, and public education finance and school safety on Wednesday. Once formed, the Article III subcommittee will consider budget issues for the agencies in that section of the bill, which include the Texas Education Agency (encompassing school funding) and the Teacher Retirement System.

Legislative Budget Board staff presented information on the TRS pension fund, TRS-Care and active employee health insurance. The House budget includes $230 million in supplemental funding for TRS-Care in order to maintain current benefits. Rep. Philip Cortez expressed concern about the changes in benefits and costs for retirees that were approved in 2017, particularly those affecting pre-65 retirees, and said he hoped that the legislature would be able to provide some relief to those retirees this session.

Rep. Jarvis Johnson asked about the actuarial status of the pension fund, and was informed that the fund is not considered actuarially sound. Generally a fund is considered sound if its liabilities can be paid off in under 31 years; the current funding period is 87 years. Staff said that TRS is requesting an increase in contributions of 1.82% of payroll to help bring down the funding period, which would cost about $1.7 billion if completely funded by the state. Funding for this purpose is not included in the House base budget, but this will likely be a conversation explored in more detail by the Article III subcommittee.