Republican officials sounded the alarm last week that retired teachers in Texas are unlikely to receive an additional payment of up to $ 2,400 from the state’s teachers’ retirement fund. Democrats ending the special legislative session.
GOP lawmakers held at least three press conferences singling out Democrats who fled to Washington, DC on Monday in an attempt to block GOP voting bills.
“There really is no excuse not to be here for the people who have been here for them all of their lives and for the lives of their children and for their constituents,” said Senator Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, at a press conference on Friday. . “They deserve better than to have lawmakers skipping class because they don’t like the mission.”
But Democrats and teachers’ groups say Republicans were to blame for the bill’s failure in the regular legislative session, and are now using retired teachers as a political pawn in the battle for breaking the quorum of Democrats.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 7, which would provide retired teachers, counselors and school staff with a one-time payment, or “13th check,” of up to $ 2,400 through the system. Texas Teachers Retreat. It would apply to thousands of former educators who quit work before the start of this year and reach the pockets of retirees no later than January 2022.
These retirees say it’s less important to lay the blame than to send those checks out the door.
“I want to see this ’13th check’ in the hands of all retirees who deserve it,” said Rita Runnels, a retired educator. “I want to see them come together and do this.”
The Texas American Federation of Teachers said on Twitter that the “sudden” interest in passing a 13th check this special session “rings hollow.”
“Blaming House Democrats for ‘killing’ this bill by breaking the quorum to preserve Texans voting rights does not erase the longstanding inaction of heads of state on the issue,” said the organization in a tweet.
Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, supported a 13th check bill for retired educators during the regular session, House Bill 3507. The bill, which had more than 100 bipartisan members signed on as co -authors, came out of a House committee but was never scheduled for a vote in plenary.
“It would have been way past if he had hit the ground – so this whole idea that we’re preventing teachers from getting a 13th paycheck is ludicrous,” Goodwin said. “We had the opportunity during the session to make that happen.”
The Calendars Committee, which schedules bills for votes in the House, is chaired by a Republican.
Renae Eze, spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott, said in a statement Friday that the governor would work to support retired educators.
“Our retired teachers deserve better than the Democrats in Texas stepping down and handing over their posts to those who elected them,” Eze said.
Goodwin said it was frustrating that Republicans militarized educators.
“I have enormous respect for our teachers and retired teachers,” said Goodwin. “I would never use them as a pawn in a game to make another group of people look bad.”
Republican lawmakers said Thursday they did not pass Goodwin’s bill in the regular session because the state did not have the funds.
Enrique Marquez, chief of staff to House Speaker Dade Phelan, said in a statement that the economy has since improved in the wake of the pandemic and recession, citing a revised estimate of biennial income from the comptroller’s office. last week.
“The state has several billion dollars in general revenue available that was not available for use in the regular session,” Marquez said. “We want to dedicate some of this to a 13th check for retired teachers when House Democrats finally get back to work.”
The comptroller’s office also updated its revenue estimates in the last month of the May regular session to say that the state “assumes continued economic growth in the next biennium,” but noted that this forecast does not take into account credits opened in session.
“Texas remains well positioned to recover from the COVID epidemic and return to its standard of economic growth above the national rate – if it has not already done so,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in a press release .
An additional bill introduced in the special session, House Bill 120, would give retired teachers a cost-of-living adjustment for their pension checks.
Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association, said that while the 13th check is a short-term solution to helping retired educators, the passage of a bill to increase the adjustment of the cost of living – which accounts for inflation over time with pension checks – is a more difficult and longer-term goal.
“There is obviously time on the clock and we hope they will fix this problem, but there is some doubt,” said Lee. “Doubt really creeps into the minds of our retirees. “