Our take on what's trending in politics in Austin and across Texas, from the Statesman's chief political correspondent Jonathan Tilove.
LBB recommends shoring up health plan for retired teachers, success measures for border security operation
The Legislative Budget Board on Friday recommended that Texas lawmakers shore up the health insurance plan for retired teachers by increasing state, retiree and school district contributions.
The agency recommended adjusting contributions so that the cost of the insolvency for the 2016-17 biennium is allocated 50 percent to the state and 12.5 percent each to active members and school districts.
“Beginning in fiscal year 2012, total expenditures exceeded total revenue for TRS-Care, resulting in a declining fund balance. The fund is projected to be insolvent in fiscal year 2016,” according to the LBB’s Effectiveness and Efficiency Report.
The recommendation is among 106 included in the report that span a variety of topics and issues from Medicaid to border security oversight.
Echoing concerns outlined by a special committee of lawmakers, the report concluded that the state has no real way of determining whether its ongoing enforcement operation at the Texas-Mexico border is effective in part because of inconsistent interpretation of statistics.
“Neither the Border Security Council nor the Homeland Security Council are required to make recommendations regarding performance standards, reporting requirements, or the allocation of funds for border security that are appropriated to the agencies that receive most state appropriations for this function,” the report concludes after a lengthy analysis. “As a result, the state’s cross-agency collaboration in oversight and measuring the results of border security operations is limited.”
The report goes onto recommend that the next two-year budget that lawmakers will write during their 140-day session include a rider to “require certain information, including outcomes, on border security to be reported to the Legislative Budget Board using specified criteria.” Also: That state law be amended “to reconstitute the Border Security Council as a special advisory council of the Homeland Security Council and require the Homeland Security Council’s annual report to include an assessment of the performance, reporting, and funding amounts for the state’s border security activities that is made available on the Office of the Governor’s website.”
The report also recommends several changes to the law that allows property owners to appeal their appraisals, including amending statute to “establish standards for what defines comparable property, limit comparable properties to those in the same appraisal district, require adjustments to be based on general appraisal standards, and establish which appraised value is used at each stage of protest and appeal.”
It also says the Texas Comptroller should “establish standards for development and calibration of adjustments for industrial, petrochemical refining and processing, utility properties, and other unique properties by rule.”
Several refineries and odd properties have used the current law to their advantage in fighting appraisals, resulting in millions fewer dollars less for school districts and other taxing entities.
Author: Kiah Collier
Kiah Collier covers the Texas Legislature for the Austin American-Statesman with a focus on the state budget, public education and employee pensions.
View all posts by Kiah Collier