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Budget Victory Is Huge for Texas Correctional Officers

After months of intense lobbying by AFSCME Texas Correctional members, the House and Senate both approved budget plans that provide badly needed pay raises for correctional officers, and addressed the chronic underfunding of the state’s Employees Retirement System (ERS).
By John Noonan ·
Budget Victory Is Huge for Texas Correctional Officers
After months of lobbying by Texas Correctional members, lawmakers approved budget plans that provide badly needed pay raises for correctional officers, and addressed the chronic underfunding of the state’s Employees Retirement System.

AUSTIN – After months of intense lobbying by AFSCME Texas Correctional members, the House and Senate both approved budget plans that provide badly needed pay raises for correctional officers, and addressed the chronic underfunding of the state’s Employees Retirement System (ERS).

The House plan, championed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Otto, fully funds the state’s pension obligations for the first time in the past 21 years, with no cuts to the hard-earned retirement benefits of state employees. The plan also recognizes that correctional officers are woefully underpaid in Texas, calling for a 12.5 percent increase in officer pay.

Currently in Texas, an officer just starting the job only earns a $29,000 salary for this difficult and dangerous job. This extremely low pay helps contribute to the state’s inability to fully staff the department. At any given time, there are 3,000-4,000 unfilled positions for correctional officers in Texas.

The Senate plan, passed on Tuesday, April 14, provides a pay increase to officers, but the proposed 5 percent raise during two years is not adequate to address the financial needs of officers and their family or to provide an incentive for new hires.

Also at issue is the badly underfunded ERS, which for 19 of the past 20 years the Legislature has failed to properly fund the state’s obligation. Both chambers committed to address the system’s $7.5 billion unfunded liability, but the House plan comes closer to reaching the necessary level of funding. Next step is the appointment of a conference committee, which will hammer out an agreement.

“This is a great victory in our fight for fair pay and true retirement security, but the work isn’t done,” said Samuel Bangura, a correctional officer. “We know that the House plans are better for officers and our families. We did good work, but now it’s our job to make sure negotiators see the light and follow the path the House has laid out. When the time comes you can bet our members will be back making sure our voices are heard.”

 

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