85th Legislature Convenes
January 10, 2017
Biennial Revenue Estimate Issued; a Look at TPEA’s Legislative Priorities
Posted on 1/10/2017
The 85th Legislature convened at noon Jan. 10. The day’s biggest event was the reelection of House Speaker Joe Straus in a unanimous vote. This is Straus’ fifth term as Speaker—tying the Speaker with predecessors Pete Laney and Gib Lewis in number of terms presiding over the chamber.
Lawmakers face a much tighter budget than they did in 2015. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar issued the biennial revenue estimate Jan. 9, informing legislators they have $104.9 billion available in General Revenue for the 2018-2019 biennium. This is 2.6 percent less than the most recent revenue estimate for the 2016-2017 biennium. Although the Texas economy is still growing, Hegar reported that two primary factors have reduced the amount of General Revenue available: a slowdown in oil and gas prices and a constitutional amendment approved in 2015 that dedicates up to $5 billion in sales tax revenue to the State Highway Fund each biennium.
General Revenue constitutes only part of the state budget, but legislators have the most control over General Revenue funds. Hegar estimates the total amount of Available Revenue (including federal funds) will be $224.8 billion in 2018-2019.
TPEA’s Legislative Priorities
In June, TPEA members at the TPEA Annual Delegates Meeting adopted TPEA’s 2017 legislative priorities, which TPEA’s lobby team has been sharing with lawmakers. TPEA views state employee compensation as a three-legged stool—salary, health insurance and retirement benefits—so there are three priorities:
Enhance state employee pay to protect the State’s investment in a quality workforce.
TPEA supports sufficient appropriations to all state agencies to allow adequate merit-pay increases of at least 1 percent of payroll for high-performing employees.
TPEA advocates an across-the-board pay raise of at least 2 percent in each year of the coming biennium (with an appropriate minimum dollar increase).
TPEA supports targeted pay raises for particular occupational or agency groups that have turnover rates exceeding 18 percent per annum.
Preserve affordable health benefits for state employees and retirees.
TPEA supports continuation of the current contribution policy for the premiums of active employees, retired employees and their dependents (i.e., 100 percent of the employee or retiree premium and 50 percent of the dependent premium).
TPEA supports preservation of the basic benefit design for the state health plan.
TPEA opposes any effort to reduce health benefits for retired state employees or dependents.
Continue to strengthen the retirement fund.
TPEA advocates maintaining the defined benefit model that has historically rewarded hard-working employees who dedicate their careers to state service.
TPEA supports maintaining the increased State and employee contributions to the ERS pension fund in order to achieve actuarial soundness over a finite period of years and eventually allow for a retiree annuity enhancement.
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