HOUSTON – On Tuesday night, Houston voters approved Proposition B, the ballot measure to give firefighters pay parity with police.
It passed with 59 percent of the vote. Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city can't afford the added $100 million a year it will add to the budget.
So what's next?
Cuts to city services
During the City Council meeting Wednesday morning, Mayor Sylvester Turner said he warned that deep cuts are likely coming -- starting with the Houston Fire Department.
He asked HFD Chief Samuel Pena to begin a radical restructuring of the department that would include:
- Firefighter layoffs.
- Cutting shifts from four to three.
- No new hiring of classified firefighters.
"I can't print the money. I can't raise the taxes, so the only way I can balance ... is that I'm going to have to do reductions, which are going to lead to a disruption of services so people will be impacted. If there's an EMS (emergency medical services) call, they may not get to you as fast. If there's a fire, they may not respond as fast," Turner said.
Room for negotiation?
Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association, said the union is still willing to work with the city to implement Prop B.
"We have been willing and are willing and are committed right now as we were a year and a half ago to sitting down with anybody, anytime, anywhere in order to implement this in the best way possible," Lancton said.
But Turner said the union is trying to use the public's vote as a negotiating tool after the fact.
"They're saying, 'OK we got Proposition B, now mayor come back and sit at the table and let's negotiate.' You can't use the public that way. There are consequences to votes and people voted last night," Turner said.
The matter will likely end up in court.
The City Council was set to discuss hiring a law firm to represent the city in the impending legal fight, but decided to table the matter for two weeks.
Councilman Greg Travis said voting on the law firm would be like "giving the middle finger to the voters" the day after the election.