Gov. Greg Abbott, without comment, recently made a key appointment, setting off a controversy regarding the future of "defined benefits" pension plans such as TRS. The governor named Josh McGee as presiding officer of the Pension Review Board, which oversees state and local public retirement systems in Texas.
Mr. McGee has been an outspoken advocate for pension reform, in his positions with the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Manhattan Institute—organizations that advocate for replacing public pensions with "defined benefits" programs (such as ORP and 401(k) plans).
Here is an article by Ross Ramsey, in the Texas Tribune. The piece mainly addresses concerns regarding benefits programs of local governments, for police officers, fire fighters, and other municipal employees. Some local plans are experiencing financial problems. While TRS is in very good shape compared to similar programs elsewhere, some critics argue that it, too, needs to change, to shift the risk from taxpayers to the individual.
Proposals in the past to alter TRS have failed in the Legislature, perhaps because so many Texans are part of the massive system, as employees of school districts and higher education institutions, as well as current retirees, who are very active politically.
Here is some background from the Texas Retired Teachers Association:
The Texas Pension Review Board is “mandated to oversee all Texas public retirement systems, both state and local, in regard to their actuarial soundness and compliance with state law.”
The Board is composed of seven members. The Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints seven members with the following qualifications or experience: three persons with experience in the field of securities investment, pension administration, or pension law; one actuary; one person with experience in governmental finance; a contributing member of a public retirement system; and one person receiving benefits from a public retirement system.
TRS members are urged to pay close attention to this issue as the Regular Session approaches in January 2017, and to communicate concerns to lawmakers while they are "at home" in their districts.