Friday, February 28, 2020

#TXLEGE: Whitmire's "Audit TRS" proposal LONG overdue

"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;"
1 Peter 5:2

Wasn't expecting this:
A state senator on Thursday has called for an audit into real estate investments and partnerships involving the Teacher Retirement System of Texas after revelations its officials had signed off on renting space at an office skyscraper at a minimum monthly rate of $326,000.

With a completion date of March 2021, the 36-story office tower at 200 West 6th St. is pricey even by the standards of downtown Austin that has seen soaring rent costs amid brisk municipal growth. Teacher Retirement System of Texas officials had cited space constraints at its current 816 Congress Ave. location, as KXAN reported. Backlash partially fueled by media scrutiny from the Austin American-Statesman and others over the lavish rent space prompted officials to reverse course and look into expanding its existing space instead.

But the repercussions of having even considered signing a lease have seemingly just begun given a request for an audit by State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), the longest-serving current member of the Texas State Senate who has represented District 14 since 1983.

[Note: We're not going to blockquote it in full, but we do recommend reading the whole linked article.]

Some thoughts:
  • Even without the current scandal, this should be done every 3 to 7 years as part of routine fund maintenance.
  • Considering that the fund has a $46 Billion unfunded liability, this can only help put it on more solid footing.
  • Whitmire's proposal comes on the heels of Paul Bettencourt's the other day.  It certainly appears that the Senate is serious about addressing this issue (or that they're at least better at creating that impression).  This stands in marked contrast to the caterwauling phoniness we've seen from the house.
  • Any serious audit really ought to take into consideration all of the other prime real estate in Downtown Austin owned by the fund.
Bottom Line: It's a shame that it took a scandal for this discussion to occur, but this should absolutely happen.

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