Mayor: City pension problems could affect every Houstonian

HOUSTON – The city of Houston’s pension issues could impact everyone in Houston, according to Mayor Sylvester Turner.

"If we don't get a bill, every single Houstonian is going to be hurt," Turner said. 

He said not taking action now could mean layoffs and cuts in city services because of more than $130 million that could be added to the city’s budget deficit.

"We firefighters do not support this bill," a Houston fire official said.

The firefighters union and the pension board opposed the Senate bill Monday, saying it takes too many benefits from retirees and provides too little in the future.

Next, the full Texas Senate is expected to take up Houston’s pension reform. The mayor expects a separate bill will pass in the House.

Turner said the firefighter-retirement fund needs to share the numbers that show the costs.

"They're the only ones who have the information. We cannot verify our cost without seeing the data. So if they would just show us the date so we can verify the cost, then we can make a determination if we're reducing their future benefits too much or whether we're not reducing them enough," Turner said.

He said without that information, the city cannot accurately add up the costs.

The Houston firefighters' relief and retirement fund board chair released a statement:

"The Mayor's claims about data are a smokescreen. The City needs money to come from somewhere.

“The Firefighters pension fund is only 18 percent of the City's long-term liability, yet firefighters' retirements are being asked to pay for 35 to 40 percent of the City's total pension debts."