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No bonds this year

Maybe next year.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner likely will not ask voters to approve bonds this November to replace the nearly depleted debt residents approved in 2012, a move that may delay several projects.

[…]

Having addressed a $160 million shortfall with the unanimous passage of his first budget last month, Turner said he now is focusing on negotiating reforms that will decrease the city’s $5.6 billion pension underfunding and lower the city’s bill for retiree benefits.

Until both cost-cutting measures succeed and are checked off his list, Turner said, he would rather not ask voters to spend more. That likely will delay a bond vote, he said, until November 2017.

“I certainly am not inclined to ask people to approve any bonds or any borrowing until the city’s finances have been handled,” Turner said. “On the budget, we’ve done that. The pension issue, I want that resolved. When we go and ask for something, I simply want to let voters know that we’re doing everything we can to be fiscally sound and prudent.”

November 2017 also is when Turner has proposed asking voters to lift a 12-year-old rule that limits what the city collects in property taxes, again presuming pension reform passes during next year’s legislative session.

Of his vision for the 2017 ballot, Turner said, “I want to be able to say, ‘If you vote for this, this will take the city to the next level,’ that it will be transformative in nature.”

I agree with the Mayor’s assessment of this. He’s made clear the need to revise the stupid revenue cap we live under, but he’s packaged that as a part of an overall financial fix that includes dealing with the immediate budget issues and putting the pension funds on firmer footing. He can claim progress on the first item, but he needs to have tangible results on pensions to complete the sale. By the same token, more bond money would be a much easier ask next year, when these items can be crossed off the to-do list, and pairing a bond issue with a referendum to change the revenue cap ought to make for a compelling pitch. There are some items from the 2012 bond referendum that are still not started, and the city needs to do all it can to keep the promises that were made in that issuance. Beyond that, I think this is the right decision.

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2 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I’m really liking Turner’s leadership so far. Houston has a long term debt problem, mainly because of underfunded pensions, so not trying to tack on more debt is the fiscally prudent move, and he made it.

  2. Bill,

    There is no pension “crisis”.

    The culprits to for the budget are: 1. 1. TIRZ
    2. For-profit health insurance
    3. Corporate hand outs via the appraisal system
    4. Revenue Cap

    Unlike Adrian Garcia, Kubosh, Radack, King and all these other desk-lamps I’ve actually done my research.

    Maybe Ellen Cohen should start compating other texas municipal pensions?
    She spent 18 years as ceo at a women’s center in houston and didn’t implement paid maternity leave. Lazy.

    How stupid do nonprofit ceo’s and politicians have to be that they ask unemployed people for ideas?