The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III met Wednesday to consider issues relating to TEA and TRS.

The TEA discussion focused primarily on requests by the agency that would allow transfers of funds from the second year of the biennium to the first, to address any higher-than-anticipated school funding costs next year. No decision was made at this meeting and the item will be addressed again later.

TEA asked for flexibility in the use of federal funds related to increased special education costs, in part to allow the use of such funds to cover the agency's capital costs in accommodating new employees in the special education division (costs such as additional furniture and equipment, for example). This item was approved.

With regard to TRS budget issues, the subcommittee approved items that would allow TRS to increase staff, primarily in the areas of investment management and customer service. The costs come from the pension fund, rather than from state general revenue. However, the subcommittee held off on adopting a TRS request that would have provided flexibility to continue to hire more personnel in the future without being subject to limitations that are in current law.

The subcommittee considered a request from TRS for the state to increase contributions to the pension fund to achieve actuarial soundness. If fully funded by the state, this would require an increase in the state's contribution rate from the current 6.8 percent to more than 8.6 percent. Subcommittee chair Greg Bonnen expressed his support for full state funding of this item, but noted that there are other proposals in the works (for example, SB 393 by Sen. Huffman) that would instead share the increase among the state, school districts and active employees. The item was set aside for now and will be addressed later in the process.

These are initial decision points by the subcommittee, and must be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee before being incorporated into the budget bill that eventually is considered by the House.