Thursday, February 21, 2019

State House and Senate resolutions would seek repeal of harmful Social Security Act provisions

By Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager

TEXPERS' Legislative Committee is supporting three state House and Senate resolutions urging Congress to move forward on legislation to repeal Social Security Act provisions that diminish the retirement earnings of public employees.

Concurrent resolutions may be used to request action from other entities, including Congress, or for memorials, congratulations, or commendations. The three state House and Senate draft resolutions urge Congress to revoke the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision of the Social Security Act. TEXPERS President Paul Brown is asking the association’s members to support the state resolutions and Congressional legislation seeking the repeals.

Public employees who receive a pension based on work for a federal, state or local government where Social Security taxes are not withheld may find their Social Security benefits reduced because of legislation enacted by Congress in 1977 and 1983. The Government Pension Offset, or GPO, applies to those eligible for Social Security spouse's or widow's or widower's benefits. The Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP, applies to those eligible for their own Social Security benefit.

There are two state House bills (HCR 19 authored by Rep.Abel Herrero, D-Corpus Christi) and HCR 25 authored by Victoria Neave,D-Mesquite) and a state Senate bill (SCR 5 authored by Sen. Joan Huffman,R-Houston) pushing for the repeals. The three resolutions are identical and call the Social Security provisions "punitive and discriminatory" stipulations that target "hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public servants."

"The GPO and WEP as applied to public employees are unreasonable and unjust and will cause tens of thousands of government retirees to experience a diminished quality of life or be forced to return to work to make up for the effects of these provisions," read drafts of the resolutions.

As of Feb. 19, only Huffman's resolution had been referred, having been sent to the Senate State Affairs committee on February 7. The House versions had yet to be referred to a committee.

Sen. Sherrod Brown.
If passed by the Texas House and Senate, the resolutions would be submitted to Congressional leadership, urging them to repeal the GPO and WEP offsets. In the U.S. Senate, S.521, filed by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is currently in the Senate Committee on Finance and calls for the elimination of the offset and windfall provisions from the Social Security Act. Co-sponsors of the bill are Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. A related bill has yet to be filed.
TEXPERS isn't alone in supporting efforts to repeal the two provisions. 

Texas is among 15 states affected by WEP and GPO offsets. Other states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rohde Island, Nevada and Illinois.

The GPO and WEP measures, according to the National Committee to PreserveSocial Security and Medicare, were once "intended to address a perceived inequity between those who spent a lifetime working and paying into Social Security and government employees who did not pay into the system." In the more than 30 years since Congress enacted the provisions, the measures have "proved to be both unfair and unworkable," according to the National Committee. 

TEXPERS' Legislative Committee met Feb. 13 in Austin to review bills recently filed for the state's 86th legislative session, including the three resolutions, that potentially involve public pensions and retirement. The committee, chaired by Brown, discussed 16 bills that have some focus on public pensions at the local, state and federal level. 

The committee voted to either continue monitoring measures as they make their way through various House and Senate committees or for TEXPERS to take a neutral, supportive or opposing stance on particularly impacting legislation. In some instances, a bill may also be addressed by proposing amendments suggesting language that is beneficial to local pension systems.

“All committees will soon begin taking up bills to be heard,” he says. “The bill filing deadline for legislation this session is March 8. For the exception of emergency items called by the governor, no bill can be heard on the House or Senate floor, without suspending rules, within the first 60 days of any legislative session.”

To see an updated list of bills being tracked by TEXPERS, visit the association’s online bill tracker at There, click the “View key legislation” link.

About the Author:
Allen Jones handles the print and online media needs of the Texas Association of Public Employees Retirement Systems. Before joining TEXPERS in 2017, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the Houston area for a daily newspaper; served as a publications manager for Hibu, an international corporation; and spent nearly 10 years working for Houston Community Newspapers, a group of community publications. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications.

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