A recent mailer sent by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility to targeted legislative districts across Texas accuses various members of the Texas House of voting to increase their legislative pensions. The mailers, which featured imagery of the targeted lawmakers alongside Nancy Pelosi and stacks of $100 bills, claimed that the lawmakers were “profiting off [their] position” and “voted with every Democrat” to increase their legislative pension.
The mailers cite House Bill 438 as the source for their claims. This legislation, authored by Republican State Representative Mike Schofield, would have provided state district judges a biennial cost of living adjustment based on the inflation rate.
While state law bases legislative pensions on a formula tied to the $140,000 annual salary of a state district judge outlined in Section 659.012(a) of the Texas Government Code, HB 438 did not amend this statutory base salary. House Bill 438, however, would have created a new section of law providing for the cost of living adjustments based on inflation. The language in the bill would not have affected the calculation of legislative pensions or increased pension amounts.
In remarks made on the House floor about allegations that House Bill 438 would have increased legislative pensions, Schofield explained how such allegations were unfounded and that the bill would not raise legislative pensions.
“House Bill 438 creates a legislative structure to automatically index state judicial salaries to inflation to maintain the constant purchasing power of judicial salaries. What it does not do is raise legislative pensions. It never did. That’s not in the bill. And it never was. Twitter, notwithstanding. The section of law that links your salary or your legislative pensions to judicial pay is [Texas Government Code section] 814.103(a). That section of law is not affected by this bill. This bill creates a second section, section Subsection B-1, which would be the inflation adjustment for judges. The purpose of the bill is to make sure the third branch of government isn’t constantly falling behind on their pay because we wait a decade to give them a raise. This would maintain their purchasing power level with today, and I move passage,” said Schofield in his remarks delivered on the House floor on May 2, 2023.
House Bill 438 passed the Texas House on a vote of 134-10 but later died in the Texas Senate.
Some versions of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility’s mailers reference House Bill 2779, by Republican State Representative Jeff Leach. While that bill would have increased judicial salaries, the version passed by the House included a provision that would have decoupled the legislative pension formula from the statutory salary of a state district judge. Like House Bill 438, House Bill 2779 would not have increased legislative pensions.
House Bill 2779 passed the Texas House by a vote of 142-0 on May 9, 2023. While an amended version of the bill passed the Texas Senate by a 31-0 vote, the bill died after a conference committee report was not presented to the chambers for approval.
Texas for Fiscal Responsibility has been a longstanding presence in the network of political organizations supported by Midland businessman Tim Dunn and his allies. It has a long history of engaging in political attacks against legislators disfavored by Dunn’s political organization. It was also one of the organizations showcased at a donor retreat hosted by Dunn last year.
Andrew McVeigh, the current President and CEO of Texas for Fiscal Responsibility, previously worked as Chief of Staff for disgraced former State Representative Bryan Slaton.
Slaton was expelled from the Texas House on a unanimous vote last year after it was discovered that Slaton had provided alcohol at his apartment to a 19-year-old intern who worked in his office and then took her virginity. The Texas House Committee on General Investigating released a report on its investigation into the allegations against Slaton that resulted in his expulsion. This report determined the male employees in Slaton’s office obstructed the Committee’s investigation and engaged in “gross misconduct” under the Texas House of Representatives Housekeeping Resolution.
In its report, the Committee noted that the five male employees of Slaton’s office “refused to meet with the independent investigator for an interview, even after being informed that a person must cooperate with an investigation in accordance with the Committee Rules.” The committee report also found that “all five male employees of Slaton obstructed the committee’s investigation by refusing to meet with the independent investigator for an interview at her requests.”
The committee report continued, “The Committee further concludes that the employees had direct knowledge of conduct constituting sexual harassment and retaliation under House Rule 15 and the Appropriate Workplace Conduct Policy in the House Personnel Manual and they did not make the required report to the Committee. Finally, the Committee concludes that the refusals by Slaton’s employees to comply with Rule 15 and the Committee’s rules constitute “gross misconduct” under Section 4.16, Housekeeping Resolution.”