Two years ago, conservative lawmakers tried to direct dollars away from frivolous programs — like the Commission on the Arts — towards the Texas Teachers Retirement System (TRS) health plan. The reason? The plan had an enormous, unfunded future liability.
One telling vote came when State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) tried to move money from the Hollywood handout program to TRS. A block of 37 House conservatives voted correctly with Rep. Schaefer.
Establishment cronies of liberal House Speaker Joe Straus killed the efforts, saying the TRS problem wasn’t serious. The reason was simple: House leadership didn’t want conservatives to succeed in identifying a liability and getting credit for a partial solution.
This week, those same Straus lieutenants have been falling all over themselves promising to finally “fully fund” TRS.
It’s not that they care much about the teachers or the financial solvency of the state. Because they wouldn’t address the problem two years ago, it has now gotten worse — growing to a nearly $800 million shortfall.
While it is fortunate that political pressure has them coming to their senses, Straus and his pals shouldn’t get much credit now for doing what House conservatives tried to do two years ago. Responsibility for the TRS health program funding crisis falls squarely on the shoulders of the Straus-led team that, for so long, ignored it.