Which mayoral candidate can solve Houston's pension crisis?

- The irony was pretty powerful.

Candidate Sylvester Turner pledging to solve Houston's pension crisis while both flanked and endorsed by Lee Brown, the former Mayor experts blame for triggering the problem by bestowing unaffordable benefits.

"We have acknowledged that the system is not sustainable and we are going to come up with something that works in the interest of all Houstonians," said Turner.

Here are the nuts and bolts.

Analysts say Houston taxpayers will spend six times more on pensions this year than they will repairing their dilapidated roads. Even with that outlay, the City is north of $3 billion in the hole when it comes to funding it's employee pensions, a deficit that's getting rapidly worse.

A commonly cited example - Houston Firefighters with 30 years’ service retire at 94 percent pay with the bonus of an additional, one time pay-out of up to $1 million.

Critics like Mayoral candidate Bill King call it a formula for bankruptcy.

"There were 76 firefighters that retired last year. The average age was 54. The average benefit was a distribution of a lump sum payment of $813,000 plus $58,000 a year for the rest of their life and their spouse's life," said King.

Backed by firefighters, cops and municipal workers, Turner says only he can broker a solution, leveraging both his credibility with unions and the strength of his long-standing relationships in the Texas Legislature.

"If someone puts forth a plan that does not have any buy in from police and fire it is already a non-starter okay and nothing will come about," said Turner.

"They don't get to dictate the terms and that's what I'm concerned with about Sylvester," countered King.

King claims salvaging the City's financial health demands a fundamental change - moving all new hires away from pensions and into 401-k style retirement plans.

"You cannot dodge this bullet long term," adds King who, if elected, says he would honor the pension terms of all existing city employees.
 

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