*Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the Texas State Employees Union's position on the House Bill 9.
The Texas Senate on Friday voted to beef up the state’s underfunded retirement system for state employees by adding about $440 million to the program.
The Employees Retirement System pension fund is about $7 billion short — it holds 76 cents for every dollar it promises to state retirees. The Senate approved House Bill 9 by Dan Flynn, chairman of the House Pensions Committee, which targets the shortfall by raising state employee contributions to the fund to 9.5 percent of their payroll by 2017 — a 2 percent increase. The measure was sponsored in the Senate by Joan Huffman, R-Houston.
HB 9 passed the House last month. If the lower chamber approves minor changes added in the Senate, the measure will head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
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The retirement system benefits about 230,000 active and retired state employees, elected officials, police officers and judges. Flynn’s measure has received mixed reviews from state employee advocacy groups.
Though the Texas State Employees Union supported the bill, it initially suggested that the proposed pay increases were too low to keep workers from fleeing to the public sector.
“It’s not nearly enough,” Seth Hutchinson, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union, told The Texas Tribune in March. “State employees can’t afford to work for the state anymore.”
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the position of the Texas State Employees Union.