A crisis indeed, but the policy "remedy" that SB2190 represents is a slippery slope for other cities that may decide to take this route, and a portent of bad things to come, specifically, for Houston firefighters. I heard through the grape vine that they'll file suit, though, so that's a good thing. It nevertheless concerns us all as a state.
This May 1, 2017 piece by Brandon Formby of the Texas Tribune provides important detail to SB2190 that you can read about here below. You can also get important additional detail on shifts from defined to contribution (401K or 401K-like) plans in other areas of the country from my April 13, 2017 blog post titled,
SB 2190 Could Be Bad News for Public Education: This Would KILL our already injured, hobbling profession...
This new title reflects the current information I have (formerly, it was "SB 2190 is Bad News for Public Education: This will KILL our already injured, hobbling profession...").
So while this struggle is specific to Houston fire fighters and their pension plans, it has potentially profound implications for other areas of state government, including education. These neoliberal, greedy, and individualistic privatizers are powerful and relentless.
A highly knowledgeable person I know who works in pensions and prefers to remain anonymous shared with me that a 401K-like, contribution benefit plan (described as an "alternative" to time-honored, defined benefit plans) are very much in the works for education as we speak. Our public schools make these vultures hungry. Never mind that these our hard-earned, taxpayer dollars that they are after.
In fact, Sen. Joan Huffman (R-District 17) is calling for pensions as an interim legislative charge. How convenient, especially now that—over Sen. Royce West's objection who was absent on the day when the action happened—none other than Josh B. McGee, former vice president of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, squeaked through to top-government post to now chair the Texas Pension Review Board. You can't make this stuff up!
While this story is not going in the right direction for Texas right now, we still do have a vote. I would hope that all state employees in Huffman's district make this their cause celebré and get her voted out in favor of a leader that truly represents not just "their interests," but most particularly their right to a decent retirement after a career of serving the public. Even if you're not a state employee, you are still a tax payer. And defined benefit plans are beneficial and fair not just for the individuals directly impacted, but also the public at large.
I'll take the liberty of quoting myself here from my updated April 13, 2017 blog post piece, too:
A longer-term agenda for our community and organizations is to upgrade our civic capacity in this arcane policy realm of pension plans. I know less than a handful of people and organizations that advocate in this area. Civil rights groups and the nonprofit sector, educational advocacy organizations, etc. need to step up to the plate. Thankfully, one such organization is Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems (TEXPERS): http://www.texpers.org/
Not sure who in academia is keeping track of these things either. Of all the volumes of education research and policy analysis that I read and come across, I simply do not see much at all on pension plans. Perhaps folks in public management are on top of this....
In any case, we all need to up our game on this. Myself, included. I'll of course continue sharing what I learn.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick himself said: "I cannot think of a more challenging bill in my 11 years in the Senate."
Read why below—and then do something about it.
“There, the anticipation of future benefit cuts caused waves of early retirements, forced liquidations of immature assets, and a spiraling decline of pension fund balances,” Keller said.
Missed payments and growing debt
Budget woes ahead
“We are already strained to the max as far as being able to provide the service that this community has come to expect,” he said.
Read related coverage:
- Hundreds of Dallas police officers stood at City Hall last week to oppose Mayor Mike Rawlings' calls for residents to oppose a legislative fix to the rapidly failing first responder pension fund.
- As the Texas Legislature considers bills aimed at fixing the Houston and Dallas pension problems, several of its members have personal or business ties to those cities' pension systems.