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Texas Legislature to consider plan boosting retired teacher health insurance

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David Webb is a veteran journalist who has written for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. He is now a freelancer who lives in the Cedar Creek Lake area.




Texas Governor Greg Abbott added retired teacher health insurance, TRS Care, to the special session call after State Rep. Lance Gooden urged the Governor to prioritize the issue, according to a press release from the representative’s office.



Gooden, who represents the Cedar Creek Lake area, filed House Bill 151 last week to address the current crisis in retiree healthcare, and wrote to the governor urging immediate action. He hosted a live interview with the head of the Texas Retired Teachers Association on Tuesday and encouraged their more than 80,000 members to flood the Governor’s office with phone calls and emails.



After insisting the special legislative call would not change from what was initially released last week, Governor Abbott’s office announced the inclusion of TRS Care early Thursday morning.



“This is a massive victory for teachers and retired teachers, who have finally had enough with the lack of respect at their state capitol,” Gooden said upon learning of the proclamation. “I am so proud of retirees and active teachers that I represent, and all of the thousands who have joined me in making this happen. What started as a long-shot effort that I began on the 4th of July has culminated into a very possible solution during this special session.”



“I’m hearing private conversations among my colleagues in both chambers that are unfamiliar to me in all of my three terms in office. There is palpable nervousness among legislators who realize they must step up to the plate for teachers and retirees this session,” Gooden continued.



“I was elected with great effort from teachers and have always considered them one of my largest bases of support. I will never stop making them a top priority and will continue our fight during this special session that finally shows potential to deliver serious wins for Texas.”


 


Gooden filed his bill Friday to “appropriate $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for TRS-Care to be appropriated over the next four years, while providing guidance to TRS and enhancing the program.”



See the complete text of Gooden’s letter to the Governor below.

Friday, July 14, 2017
Dear Governor Abbott,
As a supporter of retired teachers across our great state, I know you share my concern for current and future retirees. Many educators have expressed their disappointment and outrage about legislation and lack of funding passed in the regular session for TRS-Care and the retired educator healthcare program.



As a result of rising healthcare costs and a long-term disconnect between medical costs and the TRS-Care revenue stream, the program entered the 2018-2019 budget process with a $1 billion projected shortfall. HB 3976 was passed in both chambers to save TRS-Care from total demise, but the lack of funding for the program has resulted in an overwhelming financial burden for retirees living on fixed incomes.



I have listened to stories about retired teachers who are, for the first time in their lives, choosing between healthcare, necessary living costs, and taking on a new job to cover expenses. Our retirees deserve better than what we in Austin have delivered so far. Reminding retirees how much worse off they would have been without HB 3976 is a strategy that many legislators are finding difficult to express.



While there will no doubt be competing ideas for how we secure the present financial needs and long-term funding required to ensure retirement security for Texas educators, I respectfully am requesting the addition of TRS-Care funding to the call for the special session.



Today I filed HB 151, which would appropriate $1 billion from the Rain Day Fund for TRS-Care to be appropriated over the next four years, while providing guidance to TRS and enhancing the program. Since yesterday’s Senate announcements, I have spoken with retired teachers who are not in support of legislation that relies on gambling revenue, has no certain revenue source, or is coupled with contentious education proposals like those that died at the end of the regular session. We cannot afford to have the security of our retirees held hostage in an effort to pass other legislation that does not have broad support.



I appreciate your leadership and look forward to seeing you next week. I implore you to consider adding this necessary item to the call. I am confident my colleagues in the Legislature have heard retired teachers loudly and clearly, and we stand ready to make this right.



Respectfully,
Lance Gooden


 


 




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