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October/November/December 2002 Vol. LV No. 2

Texas Association of College Teachers ~ Defending Academic Freedom

President's Column
How TACT Works For You
by Dr. Larry King, TACT President

On December 13, 2002, TACT President Larry King addressed the Senate Special Committee on State Employee Compensation and Benefits. The following is a transcript of his comments.

First, let me tell the committee thank you for coming to East Texas and for providing this time for public comment. Both are greatly appreciated. In my remarks I would like to focus on an important issues related to the benefits for higher education faculty.

For many years, the Texas Legislature appropriated 8.5 percent of salary for employer contributions to Texas higher education faculty Optional Retirement Program (ORP). In 1992, the Legislature began appropriating 7.31 percent of salary and permitted the institutions to supplement that amount up to 8.5 percent. In 1995, responding to a Comptroller recommendation, all state retirement plans (ORP, TRS, ERS) were reduced to 6 percent employer contributions. Institutions were permitted to supplement the 6 percent for eligible employees hired before 1995 (grandfathered). An appropriations rider has since prohibited institutions from supplementing the contributions for eligible participants hired after 1995.

A subsequent Interim Senate State Affairs Committee Report recommended returning to an 8.5 percent contribution to accomplish the original 1969 intent of the program B to recruit and retain the best qualified faculty. Nevertheless, no increase has been appropriated.

The level of contribution to the retirement program is increasingly become an issue as universities compete in the job market for the best qualified faculty members. Job candidates are more closely examining benefits like ORP when they make a decision on which job they will take. Many of our universities are having difficulty in recruiting well qualified faculty and the state contribution rate to ORP is one of our problem areas.

To help alleviate this problem the 78th Legislature should do two things to permit institutions to better compete with the national average of 9 percent employer ORP contribution. First, House Bill 264 by Representative Fred Brown, should be passed. The bill permits, but does not require, institutions to supplement the appropriated employer contribution up to 8.5 percent of salary. Second the appropriations bill rider prohibiting institutional supplements to faculty hired after 1995 should not be re-authorized. These two steps will help Texas universities as they compete to attract well qualified faculty.

Again, thank you for this opportunity to comment, and I trust that you will support Representative Brown=s efforts on behalf of Texas faculty.

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