Passage of pension bonds critical to city's future

- It is being called the most critical financial decision in modern history for the City of Houston and yet, only a sliver of eligible voters appear willing to cast a ballot.

A "yes" vote for Proposition A would authorize issuance of $1 billion in bonds to shore up the desperately-underfunded pensions of police and municipal employees.

While the deal was brokered by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, it's drawing support from Bill King, the more conservative candidate he narrowly beat in 2016.

"The real reason to do this is the police and the municipal unions agreed to significant cuts in their benefits and significant increases in their contribution in exchange for us, the taxpayers, putting a capital infusion into the plan," explained King. "That's the heart of the deal. That's a reasonable deal. It's a fair deal."

Veteran Super Neighborhood leader Tomaro Bell believes failure to pass the pension bonds would amount to financial insanity.

"We need to repay this debt and if we can do it at a lower rate, why not?," asked Bell.

By shifting the debt for the City of Houston from its unions to Wall Street investors, taxpayers cut the interest rate in half, from eight to four percent.  

As if those savings weren't enough, Bell added that the $2.8 billion in benefits that the unions have conceded should hammer home the deal.

"They have taken huge cuts for the solvency of the pension and the solvency of the City," explained Bell. "Let's do our part."

Houston Police Officers' Union president Ray Hunt said his members sacrificed cash they had coming in order to insure their retirement system was solvent, but also to rescue the city that they serve from potential bankruptcy.

"Anybody who educates themselves on this will realize this is truly a no-brainer," said Hunt. "This is truly going to save Houston. The City of Houston is on the road to financial disaster if Proposition A fails."

While Proposition A makes financial sense, King and Bell said that Mayor Turner has a made a risky roll of the dice by placing a half billion dollars’ worth of capital improvement bonds on the ballot.

The concern? With ultra-low turnout at the polls, storm-battered debt-averse voters could reject money for new libraries, parks and vehicles and the negativity could spill over to the critical pension bonds.

"You don't want people to not vote for the pension bonds because they don't support the capital improvement bonds," concluded Bell. "They may feel the City is already in enough debt."

"There is not one dime of money in any of those bonds for either flooding or streets, which are the two things that we most desperately need right now in this city," added King.

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