Mayoral challenger Bill King warns pension costs again, pushing city to insolvency

On May 7, Mayor Sylvester Turner told citizens he would once again deliver a balanced budget, despite challenges.

"What I have said is, as long as I am mayor, we are not going to bankrupt this city," said Turner.

Forty-seven days later, City Controller Chris Brown offered a much different take, saying the city's books are "structurally unbalanced" and "unsustainable."

Today, mayoral challenger Bill King went a step further, saying his analysis indicates the City of Houston is technically "insolvent" with more financial liabilities than assets.

"I think you will see us go negative on the official number when the audit comes out later this year," said King.

King says despite a steady increase in city revenue, the Turner administration has generated substantial debt you won't find in the annual budget.

"The three largest deficits we've had in this city's history have occurred under this mayor," said King.

King says the so-called "deferred liability" fueling the deficits now exceeds $1 billion, in large part, because the pension funds for all three city unions have collectively fallen short of their 7 percent earnings target.

While the city hopes to reverse that red ink with more profitable performances from the pension funds, King warns the opposite could just as easily occur.

"We have been running these deficits at a time when the economy has been very good in Houston. Can you imagine what is going to happen if we have another downturn here?" said King.

Responding to FOX 26, Controller Brown said, "The City of Houston is not insolvent. That said, it is not sustainable in the long-term for the city to continue to operate under a structurally imbalanced budget... An economic downturn is coming, so the city should be padding its savings account to prepare for the slowdown."

Meantime, City Spokesman Alan Bernstein said, "the mayor of Houston must submit a balanced budget for every fiscal year. This mayor does, and the council has approved those proposed budgets."