The Texas House of Representatives unveiled a bill on Tuesday aimed at shoring up the funding status of its pension system.
The reforms specifically target members of the Employees Retirement System (ERS), which is 76 percent funded.
The bill would boost contributions to the System for both employees and employers.
More details from the Texas Tribune:
The roughly $440 million proposal would increase how much the state and its workers contribute to the Employees Retirement System pension fund, which currently holds just 76 cents for every dollar it promises retired workers.
Employees — who gave the plan mixed reviews — would get across-the-board pay raises to ease the strain.
“This is a balanced proposal to assure that neither the state employees nor our taxpayers are expected to fix the problem on their own,” said Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, who chairs the House Pensions Committee.
Under the plan, employees and the state would each boost their contributions to the fund to 9.5 percent of payroll by 2017 – 2 percent more than what each would chip in otherwise. Meanwhile, workers would see a 2.5 percent pay boost.
ERS is Texas’ second-largest pension system, with 230,000 members.
ERS Executive Director Ann Bishop testified in front of state lawmakers late last year and warned that pension liabilities, if not dealt with, could hurt the state’s credit rating soon.
The executive director of Texas’ Employee Retirement System testified in front of the state Senate Finance Committee.
Executive Director Ann Bishop used the opportunity to call for measures to improve the system’s funding, and warn that credit downgrades could be coming sooner than later if lawmakers stand pat.
Bishop offered lawmakers some options for improving the funding of the system, including a higher contribution from the state.
From Your Houston News:
Bishop said that the problem is not imminent, but every year the Legislature does not fund ERS to actuarial soundness, that is, the ability to meet its obligations over the next 31 years, the annual debt for that fund increases by half a billion dollars.
“If this is not addressed one way or another, the debt is going to keep growing,” she said. “The bond houses do consider this a debt.”
Her agency is asking for an increase in the state contribution rate to employee retirement from the current 7.5 percent to nearly 12 percent. This would allow the agency to begin paying down the debt accrued in the retirement fund.
Bishop offered some other ways to reach actuarial soundness aside from only increasing state funding. One way is to grandfather fewer people when making benefits and contribution changes.
Another is to increase employee contribution rates, for example by increasing the state contribution half a percent to an eight percent and increasing the member contribution rate from 6.6 percent to eight percent, the fund would just meet actuarial soundness criteria over 29 years.
Legally, the state’s pension contribution rate is capped at 10 percent; Bishop’s proposal of almost 12 percent would exceed that cap.