Mayor Sylvester Turner hosted a luncheon for members of the local Black press, primarily to have a dialogue on the importance of the upcoming election, and hoping to garner support for his position that voters should vote for Propositions A through E by voting “Yes” for all of them.
According to the mayor, in the simplest terms, Proposition A tackles pension reform, while Proposition B (Safety), Proposition C (Parks), Proposition D (Facilities) and Proposition E (Libraries) seek the funds necessary to make repairs and improvements required for a thriving, healthy city.
Though recognizing that the focus of many Houstonians is still on recovery from Hurricane Harvey, Turner seeks to get the message to voters about the very critical nature of these bonds, particularly Proposition A (Pensions) which deals with changes in how the City pays back its unfunded liability debt of $8.2 billion.
Turner says of his plan, “That unfunded liability of $8.2 billion will be reduced by $3 billion without raising people’s taxes saving the City of Houston a great deal of cash” by reducing the pace of future growth of municipal employee retirement benefits, but not impacting those benefits in the present. Another critical aspect of Turner’s plan is its focus on paying back the $750 million the city borrowed from the police pension system over the last 15 years, and paying back the $250 million the city borrowed from the municipal employees—garbage workers, parks and library employees, etc.—over that same period.
From Turner’s perspective, a “No” vote places the entire city in financial risk.
“It is not new debt. We already owe it. So even if voters voted ‘No,’ the debt is already owed. The problem is that we’re paying it at like 8.5 percent interest. Under this plan…instead of it being 8.5 percent interest we can pay it at 4.5 percent. It’s owed debt but we’ll pay it off with cheaper dollars.