On Monday, the House passed House Bill 516 to allow employees of the University System of Georgia to make revocable a decision that was once irrevocable on whether to participate in the Regents Retirement Plan or the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia (TRS). The rationale, explained by House Retirement Committee Vice Chairman Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville), is to allow our university system to compete with other states that have a similar plan.
Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) approached the well to voice his concern. His concern is that, although there would be no additional cost to TRS today, the potential liability for taxpayers would be $28 million per year (based on the roughly 14,000 employees at an average salary of $50,000 per year and if everyone decides to convert). That number goes upwards of close to $40 million per year if you change the average salary to $70,000 (a lot of those professors certainly make a good salary) and based on the current TRS contribution rate of 13.15%.
The bill passed with a vote of 92-70 with 10 not voting, but what seems to be interesting is who was absent from the voting:
- Rep. Braddock
- Rep. Coleman (chairman of Education)
- Rep. Dempsey (member of Higher Ed.)
- Rep. Jones (Speaker Pro Tem)
- Rep. Meadows (chairman of Rules)
- Rep. O’Neal (Majority Leader)
- Rep. Peake (vice-chairman of Ways and Means)
- Rep. Riley (floor leader for Governor Deal)
- Rep. Waites
(Speaker Ralston also didn’t vote, but he is the House Speaker)
Reps. Coleman, Meadows, and Riley are also members of the Retirement committee. Seeing three members of the Retirement committee, as well as the Speaker Pro Tempore and majority leader and other powerful names in the House, absent, it makes one ponder why they would be out of the chamber…especially with such a close vote.
It should be mentioned that Representative Coomer, who sponsored the legislation, is also a floor leader for Governor Deal.