The election season is ramping up—and we’re looking for candidates to show their support for protecting public pensions in the Lone Star State!
Public sector workers are not just voters: they’re the folks who make our communities happen. Our state’s firefighters, teachers, city employees, and state employees keep our state running, all while sacrificing the opportunity of private sector perks. They need to know their pensions will remain strong when they need them, for as long as they need them. This is why we’re challenging candidates running for the state legislature to step up and call themselves pension champions.
At its core, being a pension champion requires a few straightforward commitments. These commitments reflect what our state’s active public sector employees truly need to retire with security—and what our state’s retired public sector employees need to live with dignity.
- First, we need candidates to commit to fully funding our two statewide pension systems. Together, the Employee Retirement System (ERS) and Teachers Retirement System (TRS) serve over 1.7 million active and retired public sector employees in Texas. Their sheer size means the financial well-being of both ERS and TRS has to be a priority each legislative session. For too long, legislators have let both systems fall out of financial soundness—ultimately costing taxpayers more when periodic adjustments are made. We need lawmakers to make ERS actuarially sound immediately, and to maintain both systems’ financial health every term.
- We also need candidates to promise not to abandon our state’s pension plans for costly and inefficient 401(k)-style systems. Defined benefit plans such as ERS and TRS are clear: you know exactly what your monthly pension check will be because it is based on years of service. These plans are also safer because they lower risk by pooling investments. By contrast, report after report shows that 401(k)s very rarely offer the same amount of money upon retirement, and are much costlier to manage. Worse, 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans are much more prone to changes in the market—just ask anyone who had such a plan during the Recession.
- Third, candidates need to commit to ensuring pensions keep pace with the cost of living. Even when inflation is relatively low, a fixed income can fail to cover basic expenses within a matter of several years. Retired state employees have not seen a cost of living adjustment in nearly two decades—and many of these retirees have had to make dire choices in order to keep their heads above water. Our future lawmakers need to ensure that pensions consistently keep pace with inflation.
- Our active workers also need to be assured that any measures to keep these systems safe won’t be at the expense of their future benefits. People place faith in their pensions—and in turn, stick with their public-sector jobs—when they are confident that the system will be strong when they are ready to retire. We don’t have to sell out our future in order to keep today’s promises.
- Finally, we need to make sure that lawmakers work to protect local plans as well. Many public employees are vested in local and municipal plans. Our cities depend on these workers for vital day-to-day services—and we need to make sure these workers can depend upon their pensions when the times comes. Although ERS and TRS are clearly legislators’ mandate, they also need to make sure any smaller plans in need receive swift attention, too.
Overall, we’re really not asking for much. All we want is for anyone who wants to be a lawmaker to take the issue of retirement security seriously.
Are you a candidate who is ready to take the pledge? Reach out to us! You can contact our coordinator Keegan Shepherd at [email protected].