Sandy Smith believed she was doing morally. Smith made the decision to live a life of public service as a single mother in Austin in the 1980s, working for several Texas agencies for four decades.
She believed that working for the government would provide security and a reliable pension for her later in life. That dream has vanished, along with over half of the 69-year-monthly old’s pension check’s purchasing power.
Smith, who is a retired grandma living in San Antonio, feels duped.
“I didn’t want my job to provide Michael Dell a bigger paycheck. Smith, who helps her mother pay for memory care and occasionally sends money to her grandchildren, said she wanted to help people. “Now just getting by on food is difficult.”
Yet as the clock ticks down on the legislative session, any hope Smith, who drives a 20-year-old automobile and takes many medications, had of escaping his financial predicament is dissipating.
While lawmakers intend to use billions of dollars in surplus funds on pay raises for nearly every other employee in the public sector, including current and retired teachers and active state employees, the spending proposals by state budget leaders make no mention of relief for Texas’ 123,000 retired state employees in the next two years. The current legislative session expires in May.
There hasn’t been a pension increase for the state’s retired public employees in roughly 20 years.
Smith told The Texas Tribune, “It feels like we’ve been left out in a lot of ways.”
On Thursday, the Texas House will hold a floor debate on its proposed two-year budget.
The $302.6 billion spending plan includes $1.2 billion for pay hikes for current state employees, $3.5 billion for retiring teachers, and more funding for a salary boost for current teachers, but it’s expected to change by the time it’s approved by the GOP-dominated chamber.
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A second package that provides more funding for programs to be paid for this year, including additional funds for state employees and retired teachers, allocates roughly $5 billion in general income.
The proposed budget for 2024–25 would use $136.9 billion in general revenue, as it stands before the vote. The proposed two-year budget also leaves the majority of a historic $32.7 billion budget surplus in state coffers unutilized.
The two chambers will work out their differences in a conference committee once the Senate votes its own spending package later this month before voting on a final budget bill to be delivered to Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Some House members supported a proposed amendment this week during floor debate that would have added funds for retirees to the package, but per House rules, doing so would necessitate taking funds from another area of the budget.
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