Pension deal approved by firefighters

It’s a big deal, though it’s hardly a done deal yet.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

For the first time ever, the Houston firefighters’ pension board agreed Monday to accept benefit cuts for current workers and retirees, potentially paving the way for a solution to a 15-year-old crisis that has threatened to bust budgets and weaken the city’s financial stability.

By a 7-2 vote, the firefighters panel joined the police and municipal pension boards in agreeing to give up some benefits in exchange for certainty in a complex deal that would eliminate underfunding of Houston’s three retirement systems in 30 years.

The reform package, which Mayor Sylvester Turner heralded as a “historic turning point,” heads to City Council for approval on Wednesday, then to the Legislature, which controls city workers’ retirement benefits.

Although passage of the reform in Austin is far from a foregone conclusion, Turner was optimistic the deal would survive any legislative turbulence.

“For the first time ever, all three pension systems have been willing to work with the city in a very productive manner. We’re all on the same page and moving forward as a united front,” Turner said at a press conference. “We are closer than ever to solving what no one else has been able to solve over the last 15-plus years. The finish line is certainly within reach.”

The mayor’s declarations were firmer than those of fire pension chairman David Keller.

“I think it substantially moves it forward, but there’s still a lot of road to go,” Keller said. “It’s certainly no end. It’s kind of a beginning.”

A statement released by the fire fund after the vote called the agreement a “non-binding framework,” and no trustees elected by active or retired firefighters appeared at Turner’s press conference.

See here for the background. There’s a lot of talk later in the story about maybe filing a lawsuit over this – by Andy Taylor, of course, who has never turned down a possible payday – but the more immediate concern is about ensuring a bill passes through the Lege to ratify this. I have been of the opinion that if the city made a deal with the pension funds, the Lege will be willing to ratify it. That was under the assumption that none of the stakeholders would lobby against it, which may not be the case here. For now, though, I’ll stick with what I said up front – this is a big deal. Now it’s on Mayor Turner and the city’s lobbyists to finish it. The Mayor’s press release is here, and an easy-to-read executive summary of the changes to all three plans is here. The Urban Edge has more.

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18 Responses to Pension deal approved by firefighters

  1. Houston firefighters are the lowest paid nation-wide.

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    Watch the hearing about the pensions…

  3. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, while their direct pay is not high, their pension benefits are still better than most in the state, well above that of the municipal workers and cops. The other two groups gave up a great deal previously and the HFFRF still has a better pension after all these changes to the trio.

  4. Steve,

    At 20 years, not including drop and other things, houston and corpus christi had the worst fire pensions state-wide. Last i checked.

  5. Paul,

    Watching city hall videos is about as pointless as the houston chronicle screening.

    Lots of bubble gum, no real policy ideas.

    None of the 4 lawyers could articulate in writing, on a website, any policy ideas for working families. I watched all the league of women voter interviews. They either pretended to be stupid or were genuine morons.

    How lazy is city council?

  6. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, using a single career length that is atypical of the profession is a form of lying with statistics. Compare pensions at 30 years, 35 years, or a variety of time lengths to find HFD’s pension is much stronger than average. With these changes, once fully implemented at least, that might change but almost no firemen retire at 20 years of service, certainly not with HFD, unless with a medical disability where they get a whole lot more.

  7. I wouldn’t sign anything unless it involved better benefits like paid fmla, schedules, etc

    If the last year is any indication. Houston is run by morons.

  8. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, if by “better benefits” you mean benefits they can rely on being there in a few years versus paper promises for benefits that no one is willing to pay for, then you would have been voting right along side the 16 in favor of the proposal. Now that other cities are finding out that the true costs of benefits is ever increasing, Houston may not be the low cost leader for much longer (ask Dallas).

  9. I refuse to work at city hall until city employees have some form of paid parental leave.

  10. Steve Houston says:

    Given the voters soundly rejected you, it sounds like you’ll be moving on then. 😉

  11. Win, lose or runoff.

    I’ve made a mockery of city hall and state legislature with real policy ideas while Kubosh, Radack and Patrick twiddle their thumbs.

  12. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, you showed you could search the internet for solutions other communities have tried or were contemplating, a far cry from your claims to date. Most of those ideas have failed or will fail when they are not properly funded over time, other ideas trying to get the city to compete with private sector businesses better suited for communities willing to compensate the right people enough to compete with the private sector.

  13. Let me know mayor turner grows balls and offers city employees some form of paid parental leave and paid sick leave just like 28 other cities, before his first term is over.

  14. *paid sick leave ordinance for private employers

  15. I’d gladly take a paycut to live and work in DC metro area. That’s how dumb i think houston is.

  16. Ross says:

    Joe, just how high do you think City taxes should be to fund your expensive proposals (and, please don’t bring up that stupidly inane public bank crap again)? Would you be sympathetic to those of us who might have to move when the taxes become so high that we can’t afford to pay them? Would you be sympathetic to people who lose their jobs when their employer leaves to relocate to a city where there’s no ordinance forcing them to have higher costs than their competitors?

  17. Look-at-my-website


    Ask the do-nothing lawyers on city council

  18. Pingback: Council ratifies Turner’s pension plan – Off the Kuff

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