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Council unanimously passes Turner’s first budget

Good job.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner achieved his goal of securing unanimous passage of his first general fund budget Wednesday morning, a month ahead of the typical schedule and after an unusually brief and uncontentious discussion of council members’ proposed changes.

The $2.3 billion general fund budget, which pays for most basic city services with revenues from taxes and fees, represents only the second budget cut for Houston in two decades. The first came after the 2008 nationwide financial crisis.

“It’s not my budget, it’s our budget,” Turner told City Council. “There are fewer than 20 amendments today, which I think speaks to the collaborative nature of the partnership we have. I want to thank you for the trust you’ve placed in me.”

[…]

Turner’s budget proposal in general , which spends $82 million less than was budgeted in the current fiscal year, despite an additional $27 million for employee raises and an increase of $29 million in pension payments, cuts 54 vacant positions and includes roughly 40 layoffs.

The document pulls $10 million from reserves, makes $56 million in permanent changes, mainly cuts within departments, and relies on $94 million in one-time fixes to bridge the $160 million gap the city had faced between its revenues and expenses.

The Mayor’s press release is here, and a longer version of the Chron story is here. This is the “easy” budget, in the sense that it doesn’t yet do anything related to pensions, and was able to use a number of one-time items to help boost revenue and mitigate the need for deeper cuts. Next year will be harder, especially if sales tax revenue continue to sag. The relative ease and widespread harmony with which this budget was passed gives Turner some momentum and a fair amount of political capital to deal with that budget as it comes. The Press has more.

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28 Comments

  1. Another city budget that doesn’t include Paid Parental Leave for city employees.

    Not even basic Paid Maternity Leave.

    Houston is the only major US city that doesn’t provide Paid Parental Leave to new parents.

    Step it up Turner, 6 months in and you’re still looking like a desk-lamp democrat!

  2. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, how many US cities currently provide FULL paid parental leave of over six weeks by virtue of a city ordinance?

    I ask because if that is going to be the sole metric used to measure the mayor’s performance, I don’t think other US mayors will merit your support either. San Francisco just passed a 6 week leave last month and they were widely reported as the first city in the nation to do so, a few states including California and New York providing for partial pay by virtue of state law.

    Given Houston’s precarious financial situation, expecting the city to be way ahead of the rest of the nation seems a stretch of the imagination, even for you. At this point, most city employees are biting their nails in hopes that they don’t lose too much in pension benefits, everyone concerned making it crystal clear that substantial cuts are coming whether they like it or not. And if you ask the unions to put it to a vote, paid maternity leave versus whatever they would have to give up to pay for it, I’m reasonably certain you won’t get any traction from the employees either.

    Turner has already done a better job in 6 months than White or Parker did during their 6 years each. Rather than focus on impossible wish lists during austerity years, perhaps it would be more reasonable to compare apples to apples.

  3. Steve,

    Unlike the 16 city council members and 13 candidates for mayor, I spelled everything out on my website.

  4. Houston is the only major US city that doesn’t provide Paid Parental Leave to city employees.

    Houston is the only major US city that hasn’t passed a paid sick leave ordinance for private employers.

    Is it time to go back to DC?

    Are 16 city council members of the 4th largest city really this ignorant?

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Why is it that people who have kids should be entitled to be paid without working, while those without kids get no such benefit? The whole thing reminds me of smokers. The smokers in the group get to take a 10 minute smoke break every hour, meanwhile the suckers who don’t smoke just have to work the whole time. This is a clear case of discrimination against the childless.

  6. Bill,

    If i/we have to explain.

    We have bigger problems.

  7. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, so you admit that no cities provide fully paid parental leave other than San Francisco, that city the “FIRST” to do so on its own?

    Otherwise, any benefit the city offers will be offset by cuts to salary or other benefits so the “less fertile” employees will be subsidizing the others. While that looks great for some, others would not enjoy it nearly as much; the same for virtually all of your proposals. But considering you garnered about 6% of the vote, apparently not inspiring the masses you believe support your causes, even when I happen to agree with a specific proposal you link to on your website doesn’t mean much. Until you win a seat, they will ignore you and your ideas, their lack of having extensive positions on their own website showing you just how important most people think a website is to a political campaign.

  8. Maybe houston Blanchard should stop asking me for ideas.

    Maybe Costello should stop wearing hawaiian shirts.

    Maybe Turner should have supported Paid FMLA for city employees from day one.

    Kubosh seems pretty quiet for a city council member that won 60% of the vote. We still have yet to see any ideas from him.

    Kubosh, Radack, Blanchard, Lufburrow and Huberty can borrow my ideas if they aren’t willing to put in the effort to research non-partisan ideas.

  9. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, whatever lip service a few may be paying you, if they aren’t actively advocating your ideas, they sure seem to be ignoring you for all intents and purposes. Again, few cities provide a never ending increase in employee compensation, most that offer one perk simply reduce other perks in order to pay for them; let the employees decide via a cafeteria menu system to suit their own needs. Then, when one favors better insurance over more time off, it can be done with ease but the suggestion that the city would even live up to past promises without adding millions more in costs is a questionable belief, the morality of it aside, it just isn’t going to happen.

  10. Then i guess it’s time to back to DC and get a real job where companies have the same budget and offer better benefits.

  11. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, that’s just it, companies in DC do not generally “have the same budget”, nor do they feel the need to compete with more benefits than other companies provide locally. If a particular job market is more competitive, such as in DC, that might be the case but I don’t see that here for most positions.

  12. DC city government offers 8 weeks of paid fmla to city employees.

    But houston city council is too lazy to google any ideas.

  13. Steve Houston says:

    No Joe, they are too cheap to implement such ideas; a huge difference that I suspect you see but care not to acknowledge.

  14. Which is why i refuse to work in city hall until at least feasibility study is done on paid fmla for city employees.

    I thought Turner’s public policy platform was un-inspiring for a mayoral candidate of the 4th largest city.

    To be honest all the 13 mayoral candidates had mediocre ideas.

    Watching the interviews of city council candidates responses on the texas league of women voters was a joke.

    City hall and county court is a dinosaur graveyard.

  15. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, I’m a cynical guy myself but I don’t tie that cynicism to specific wish lists like you do and I come by it honestly. What most people want is for the trash to be picked up, the streets to be reasonably smooth, and for the basics to be addressed in as efficient a manner as possible. They really aren’t impressed with grandiose ideas and they accept that whoever is in office is going to profit handsomely but it boils down to the equivalent of “making the trains run on time”. A mayor who covers the basics is rarely questioned by the masses as to their methods or the details because most people don’t care.

    The average voter isn’t going to read the city budget, doesn’t know what the true cost of bonded debt is, nor do they know any of the myriad of details that go into running a huge city like Houston. They have their own affairs to worry about and lack the time or desire to be brought up to speed. In truth, they WANT mediocrity unless someone else is going to pay for it.

    Each candidate for mayor had some key ideas, many just borrowed failed programs of the past (Hall was big on that), tried to play card tricks (King), or tried to sell technical expertise (Costello) to people that don’t care to be lied to in techno-babble any more than they care to be lied to in plain English. Turner never promised to usher in a golden age of wisdom and learning, he promised to address the problems facing the city and has done so in credible fashion in his first few months in office. I don’t agree with everything he has done or plans to do but if he is successful, it will be more than worth any contribution you would have made as a link happy webmaster. (and I say that as someone who has admitted to liking some of the suggestions you borrowed from others)

  16. I didn’t realize how dumb houston city council and houston ceo’s were until i ran for office.

  17. voter_worker says:

    Just for a point of reference, Joe, which US city most matches your vision of a well-run municipality?

  18. Steve Houston says:

    He seems really partial to DC, a city well known for all sorts of problems on a scale well beyond it’s population. I’m sure he’d feel more at home in San Francisco or a few places in Europe as well. 😉

  19. Everywhere has its good and bad.

    But when other US cities, smaller and bigger than Houston, have passed basic ordinances decades ago.

    It’s pathetic.

    Houston city council members are wankers with no real policy ideas.

    Harris county court is a dinosaur graveyard.
    It took Steve Radack 30 years to figure out universal healthcare.

    Why should we have to wait until he dies to get Paid FMLA for county employees?

    Radack sure was quiet when Mike Sullivan blocked Online Voter Registration for 30 million Texans.

  20. How hard is it for city controller with an MBA to put together reasons to repeal the revenue cap?

    Are we that lazy?

    Reasons…

    For-profit healthcare
    TIRZ
    City delivers infrastructure and public safety, not groceries

    Tying government budgets to population + inflation is a horrible idea.

    The people who use public services the most are children and senior citizens, whose populations are growing 2-3 times faster than other age groups.
    And… they don’t work.

    Do i really have to explain basic public finance to 4 lawyers, 2 former state reps, former ceo’s, doctors and industry executives on city council?
    wow, just wow.

  21. The black-democrats on houston city council are a joke.

    Their constituents would greatly benefit from ordinances such as but not limited to:
    Ban the Box
    Paid Sick Leave
    Non Discrimination Ordinance without public accommodation.

  22. It’s kind of pathetic that the 4 female city council members don’t support Paid Maternity Leave for city employees.

    This is not rocket science, this is pretty basic stuff.

  23. I understand that it’s hard for people to comprehend that an unemployed gringo with a liberal arts degree may or may not be smarter than Harvard Lawyers and UH MBA grads.

  24. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, just because they don’t support your version of utopia or are particularly conversant in the specifics of municipal finance laws in Texas, doesn’t mean they are less intelligent than you any more than having a degree from a particular university makes them smarter than you. And even if specific groups are supportive of particular issues, it doesn’t have to follow that they as obsessive about their support as you are. That isn’t rocket science either but spending other people’s money is easy, the real trick is to figure out ways to make enough money of your own to hand out as you see fit. You should try it some time, it’s actually kind of fun.

    But for every reason you can find to support the ill advised revenue cap, someone else can find line item examples of the city’s wasteful spending from the budget. Most of the discussion is not about brainpower so much as politics; some simply don’t want to offer more benefits to worker drones and others realize that offering more benefits results in lower pay. But for guys like Radack, if you want anything done, simply tie the proposal to building or expanding a park in his area and he will be all over it…lol.

  25. Bill Daniels says:

    Hey Joe,

    Regarding the revenue cap: Do I have to explain to you why it is a bad idea to tax people out of their houses? Even with the cap, that’s happening right now. Haven’t you seen the news stories about record numbers of property owners protesting their property valuations? They aren’t doing that for their health, or just to be contrarian, they are doing it because they are trying NOT to lose the property they have worked hard for.

    When you tell those people to pony up even more so government can pay even more people not to work, don’t be surprised when you don’t find a very sympathetic crowd. This was kind of the point of all that TEA Party thing….taxed enough already.

  26. Steve,

    Radack will be pushed out of the county court by term limits.
    Governments should be where ideas flow, not where dinosaurs go to die.

  27. Bill,

    No other US city has a revenue cap.

    I’ve already spelled out the details and solutions to property tax reform on my website.

    Unlike the 16 wankers on city council.

  28. […] operates under Complete Streets guidelines, means that sidewalks will receive proper attention. The budget that Council just adopted includes Metro money for each Council district earmarked for […]