25 June 2009

Governor Perry Earns Detention and Swats From Retired Teachers

Our dunce cap wearing governor, Rick Perry, seems determined to wage a no-quarter given war against retirees, older Texans and working families.

His target of the day is the board of trustees of the state's Teacher Retirement System. And let me tell you, in the vernacular, the retired teachers are quite pissed off! Not merely miffed mind you...pissed!

Last week he vetoed House Bill 2656 (authored by New Braunfels Republican, Doug Miller) which would have added another retiree to the nine member board.

Reaction was immediate. Tim Lee, executive director of the Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) blasted the governor's decision, saying, "TRTA is appalled...especially when he told education retirees he would support such a bill when he was campaigning for reelection in 2006".

Currently only one TRS retiree serves on the board that is responsible for developing the investment policies and other pension investment decisions for the teacher's retirement fund. Critics of the governor were quite clear in complaining that the obvious message is that retirees are "just not smart enough" to have another position on the board.

Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the governor said, "There is no message other than that which was in the veto statement, which in effect states that the appointment of another board member would "dilute" the board's financial expertise.

Cesinger went on to say, "His concerns were grave enough to veto this bill".

The TRTA's statment on its web site responds, "The idea that removing one trustee with "financial expertise" would weaken the fund's ability to manage its assets is difficult to believe. TRS has a world-class investment staff, as well as numerous independent advisers, lawyers, research assistants, government relations personnel, accountants, auditors and more".

Simply put, the bill would have replaced one board member with a retiree raising to two the number of retirees serving on the board. It seems common sense would dictate that there be a balance of voices on the board particularly to offset the weight of influence from the private sector with each of those holding the potential for conflict of interest in these complicated economic times. After all, it is the retiree's pension fund!

Common sense is not in wide supply in Austin.

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