No Thanksgiving for State Retirees

Attorney general blames lawmakers for missing legal way to make one-off payment

Abbott: "While the short answer to this question is 'yes,'" the longer answer is that retirees are down a promised $500

Tough day for Attorney General Greg Abbott: He just became the man that took $500 out of the hands of retired teachers, and he's blaming lawmakers for screwing up the payment.

Last session, the legislature authorized the Comptroller of Public Accounts to authorize a $500 payment for each eligible retiree in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and the Employees Retirement System of Texas. However, the gift came with strings attached: It needed to be cleared by the AG's office as constitutional.

In his opinion issued to retiring Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, Abbott gave the bad news. The boil down is that such one-off payments are constitutional, and the state executed exactly just a payment to the TRS in 2007, but the Lege did this one wrong, so no payments.

Abbott comes as close to pointing fingers as possible when he wrote, "The Legislature is aware of legal means by which to provide additional benefits to retirees. It conspicuously failed to utilize such approaches during the Eighty-first legislative session."

So what's the end result? The retirees don't get the money they were effectively promised. Instead, the $155 million allocated goes into the TRS and ERS coffers in an attempt to make them closer to actuarially sound. Now Abbott look like the bad guy going into an election year, while Ogden leaves the Senate before having to answer the troubling question of how complicit he, as the Senate's top numbers guy, was in letting those two funds get so low, and then screwing up the one-off payment.

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