HOUSTON-- The tension over pension seems to have eased a bit, now that Houston voters passed a billion dollar bond referendum. Perhaps no one is more relieved than Mayor Sylvester Turner. "This is a monumental win for the entire city."
"This was a team effort with employee groups, pension boards, legislators," said Ray Hunt, President of the Houston Police Officers Union.
The referendum is considered the mayor's landmark reform package which could mean the end to the city's financial crisis.
About 16 years ago, city leaders agreed to benefit increases and the police and municipal pension funds agreed to cuts, with the understanding that the city would pay what officials thought they could afford. When they fell short of the amount of funds needed each year they were left 8.2 billion dollars in the red.
But Mayor Turner is a man with a plan.
Here are three key components:
One: Recalculate the city's payments.
Two: Cut benefits.
Three: Cap Houston's future pension costs.
The idea is that rather putting more money towards the fund and adding to the increasing debt, we need to pay down the debt faster.
Mayor Turner calls this idea 'passage of the referendum,' "A world series win on the financial side for the city of Houston."
It's not an overnight fix. In fact, it could take three decades to erase the debt, but in the immediate future, passing the pension reforms means we can also take a pass on widespread layoffs.