Thursday, September 18, 2008

“It would set a dangerous precedent for a career politician to tell them how to invest educators’ retirements.”

Educators’ association: Put brakes on toll road investments


By Robert Elder
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

The Association of Texas Professional Educators put out a statement today on possible teacher pension fund investments in toll roads and other infrastructure projects. The statement is an apparent response to a recent proposal by the state’s political leadership to establish a state infrastructure investment fund to help pay for Texas roads and infrastructure.

Here’s the ATPE statement:

The state’s largest educators’ group will urge the trustees of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas tomorrow to maintain their independence from state budget matters and not to invest the pension fund in politically influenced toll road projects across Texas.

The 112,000-member Association of Texas Professional Educators opposes the use of the multibillion-dollar fund as a potential tool for furthering political ventures.

The committee of TRS board members discussed the issue today during a broader discussion on future investments in infrastructure.

“The TRS investment staff has done a good job managing the fund so far,” said Brock Gregg, ATPE governmental relations director. “It would set a dangerous precedent for a career politician to tell them how to invest educators’ retirements.”

The TRS board has a very successful investment history based on prudent decisions and the long-term interests of the retired teachers who rely on the TRS pension fund. The fickle nature of investing in politically motivated funds and projects, however, won’t benefit the long-term investment strategy that has made TRS successful.

“In such a volatile market environment, educators are more worried about their financial future than ever before,” said Gregg. “Our concern is that these suggestions are politically motivated and focused on solving a state budget problem as opposed to maintaining the fiduciary principle of the TRS fund-serving the long-term interests of Texas’ retired educators.”

While not bound to investment recommendations by other governmental entities, the TRS board can approve the use of retirement funds to invest in state-sponsored projects. In 2006, the governor’s office suggested that the TRS Board invest up to $600 million in start-up technology companies receiving money from the Emerging Technology Fund; however, ATPE urged the board not to invest in the highly speculative, politically based investments.

© 2008 Austin

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