AG Abbott nixes payments to teachers

Chris Rizo Nov. 25, 2009, 1:19pm

Greg Abbott (R)

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-Thousands of retired educators in Texas won't get a one-time $500 bonus check next month because a snafu at the state Capitol.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said in an opinion issued Monday that the state cannot issue the payments because legislators improperly appropriated funds for the $155 million plan.

Abbott said the Legislature can make one-time payments to retired teachers and state employees, but normal procedures must be followed to do so.

"To accomplish such payments, the Legislature may appropriate funds directly to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas ("TRS") and the Employee Retirement System of Texas ("ERS") for distribution to retirees of the respective systems," Abbott wrote. "In enacting section 17.13 of the General Appropriations Act, the Legislature chose not to pursue that path. The Legislature instead appropriated funds to the Comptroller for the purpose of providing payments to the recipients outside of the TRS and ERS trust funds."

Abbott issued his legal opinion to state Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxhachie.

"The Legislature is aware of legal means by which to provide additional benefits to retirees. It conspicuously failed to utilize such approaches during the Eighty-first legislative session," Abbott told the lawmakers.

Representatives for about 225,000 retired Texas teachers, who have not received cost of living increase since 2001, have said the money would have come in handy this December for many retired teachers.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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