Message from the Executive Director: Rebuilding a sustainable Trust Fund

September 13, 2021

Porter WilsonWhile COVID-19 may have made the 87th Texas Legislature a different experience for all involved, it didn’t prevent lawmakers from acting on a key issue impacting ERS and the state employees and retirees it serves. Notably, new legislation will provide billions of dollars to shore up the ERS Retirement Trust Fund.

Signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in June, Senate Bill 321 also creates a new retirement benefit for future state employees, a move that will further help sustain the Trust Fund over the long term. You can read details about the legislation in "News from the 87th Legislature."

I commend our legislators and the Governor for taking this critical step to restore the Trust Fund to health. Their investment in our state workers and retirees is an investment in Texas. I’m grateful to the bill’s authors and legislative staff who worked to get the legislation passed. Our ERS governmental relations team and consulting actuaries also worked tirelessly to provide lawmakers with the information they needed to examine all options and propose a solution that will benefit all state employees—current, past and future.

In addition to this substantial boost to the retirement fund, the Legislature maintained funding for insurance benefits for state employees and retirees. This is good news given the uncertainty of the pandemic. Of course, state appropriations are only part of the equation when it comes to keeping your insurance benefits affordable. By aggressively managing health plan quality and costs and encouraging plan participants to make smart choices about their care, we hope to be avoid increases in premium rates for the next two years.

Farewell and welcome

In recent weeks we’ve welcomed two individuals to roles at ERS and celebrated the service of two others. Chief Investment Officer Tom Tull retired in August after more than two decades of working with ERS in a staff or advisory capacity. Read about our new CIO David Veal. We also welcomed Trustee Neika Clark to fill the ERS Board seat Ilesa Daniels has held since 2015. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Tom and Ilesa for their dedication to our members and stakeholders. Although David and Neika are new to their roles, they bring first-hand knowledge of ERS and the programs and services we administer. I look forward to their insight and energy as we implement the new retirement benefit and navigate a post-COVID-19 world.

Reconnecting with retirees

We hoped to hold Fall Enrollment events and our biennial Staying Connected retiree fairs in November. However, due to rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we have decided to do the enrollment events virtually and postpone the Staying Connected fairs. We are disappointed to miss the opportunity to visit with many of you in person and hear what is on your mind. We plan to reschedule the Staying Connected fairs for spring 2022. Please stay tuned to the ERS website and to future issues of Your ERS Connection newsletters for details.

You can help us come together next year by doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Get vaccinated if you haven’t already and follow the Texas Department of State Health Services’ health recommendations.

Stay well,

Porter