Budget

The House and Senate have each passed their version of the state budget via HB 1. The House rejected the Senate’s version and has requested the appointment of a conference committee. House conferees were appointed Thursday (Reps. John Zerwas, Greg Bonnen, Sarah Davis, Oscar Longoria, and Armando Walle). The Senate is expected to appoint its five conferees early next week so that the group can begin negotiating the difference between the House and Senate versions.

With regard to public education, the two versions both include $9 billion in new funding (a portion of which is reserved for property tax relief), but the Senate’s specifically includes the $5,000 pay raise for teachers and librarians, while the House version is not specific about pay raises (see next section).

School finance and salaries

The Senate passed SB 3, which provides the mechanism for the $5,000 teacher/librarian pay raise, in early March. The bill has not been heard in the House Public Education Committee.

The House’s salary proposal is included in HB 3, which is also a school finance reform bill. HB 3, as amended on the House floor last week, includes a requirement that districts spend a portion of their new funding on raises for all full-time, non-administrative employees. It also includes a significant increase in the state minimum salary. It does not include a specific amount for a teacher pass-through raise. HB 3 has passed the House and has not had a hearing in the Senate.

Unlike the House, the Senate has separated the issues of school finance and salaries, to a certain extent. Its school finance reform bill, SB 4, has not received a hearing in the Senate. That bill does not include the SB 3 provisions for the $5,000 pay raise, but does include a merit pay program. The Senate Education Committee has scheduled HB 3 for a hearing next week.

TRS and health insurance

Despite great need in the area of health insurance funding for both active and retired school employees, the only related proposal currently under consideration will ensure that the shortfall in TRS-Care is covered for the next two years so that retiree insurance premiums will not increase (this is included in the state budget). TCTA’s proposal to improve benefits and funding for active employees (HB 1219 by Rep. Roland Gutierrez) has not been scheduled for a committee hearing.

Major legislation regarding the pension system is on the move, however. SB 12 by Sen. Joan Huffman has passed the Senate and passed out of the House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee. As it passed the Senate, it would increase contributions to TRS from the state, active members and school districts in order to make the fund actuarially sound; it would also include a supplemental one-time check for retirees capped at $500. The House Pensions Committee replaced this language with the proposal that is also incorporated in HB 9 by Rep. Greg Bonnen. As SB 12 passed out of committee, only the state’s TRS contribution would increase, and the supplemental check would be capped at $2,400. The next step for either bill would be consideration on the House floor but neither has been set on the House calendar.