As we know, the fate of our Dallas fire and pension fund is in the hands of Austin. Wednesday night, the Texas House passed preliminary approval lickety-split, unanimously, in a first step to keep the bleeding fund from going broke.
It took all of ten minutes.
You know the story, it is on everyone’s mind: unsustainable benefits voted by board members, bad investments, and little oversight on the part of the city led our first responder’s pension plan from being the poster child of pension health (once, it was) to the brink of disaster.
It’s not Miller Time yet: some fourth quarter amendments came in at 4 pm just as the bill was heading to the floor. The formal vote to send the bill to the Senate is expected on Thursday. In the senate, it could undergo tweaks and adjustments by State senators Royce and Huffines. Maybe.
And state Rep. Dan Flynn, the bill’s author, is not ready to celebrate yet. He also stands ready to defend it.
But the floor vote Wednesday night was an important one. It was, as Tristan Hallman put it, “a symbolic and overwhelming show of support, much to the elation of police and firefighters who feel their efforts were vindicated and the dismay of some, including Mayor Mike Rawlings.”
“I am not surprised, but I am incredulous,” Rawlings said. “The House dealt a brutal blow that was devastating to the taxpayers of the city of Dallas. They have been taken to the alley and beaten up pretty bad over this.”
I don’t see it that way. And I think the biggest mistake in this whole issue has been portraying the plan as the Taxpayers versus the Police. Very bad move. Kind of like lying about the whereabouts of your district attorney.
I think, perhaps, some pet programs will evaporate over the additional $22 million we will pour into the plan. I think the first responders were beaten up pretty badly, paying for the sins of their past board. It will still make it hard to recruit cops here. Really sucks, but it’s a hard choice that they agreed to make to keep the fund solvent. While glad that a retired banker from Van, Texas could help them, it is sad that our own city council could not have worked with the pension board, DPA and DFFA and drafted a plan for the legislature to rubber stamp.
Again, it’s because of the way it was framed: Taxpayer versus Police.
My opponent regards Dallas police with complete disdain, especially if they dare belong to an association. It shows his lack of experience in the work force. My uncles ran a steel manufacturing plant in northern Illinois post World war II and never had an issue with unions. Reason? They valued and took care of their employees. And actually, the heyday of the American economy was in the fifties and sixties, when unions promoted a strong middle class.
The 132 to 0 vote was a disaster for my opponent, who worked closely with Mayor Rawlings on the pension issue, and testified repeatedly in Austin. Recall, my opponent was on the pension board and indeed quit abruptly in April, 2016. While the Dallas Morning News calls this a huge loss for Mayor Rawlings, I think the Mayor may actually be suffering for my opponent’s handiwork.
The vote was unanimous — as Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Jim McDade McDade said,”The vote clearly shows the amount of work we put into this thing,” said . “I don’t even think we expected unanimous.”
I think the vote may give a hint at what outcomes we can expect in this weekend’s elections. Mayor Rawlings sent a letter out to Dallas taxpayers, expressing his dislike of the Flynn plan, and asking Dallas residents to write their state reps and tell them not to support the plan.
Maybe a lot of people reacted to that letter as I did: I called Linda Koop and told her to vote for it. If enough people had taken the Mayor’s suggestion, there would have been more opposition.
What the Flynn plan is really about — is enough protection in the program to keep the plan alive. Because there is a lack of trust that the Mayor and my opponent are fully committed to saving the plan. My opponent clearly told the Dallas Morning News editorial board he thought the plan should be scrapped.
The escalating minimum amount is meant to give the system a steady revenue stream to ensure its solvency, no matter how many officers and firefighters the city has on its roster. However, it also makes it more difficult for the city to start a new retirement fund because it is tied to paying into the old one.
The fear that if, given control, the Mayor and my opponent would try to destroy the plan and start a new one is very real. In fact, I heard such talk to potential voters this weekend from Mr. Kleinman, who told them there is enough money to cover the widows and orphans, then start over with a new bill. That, folks, would be a disaster.
It was for that precise reason that the Texas legislature created such a heavy bill on we taxpayers: they feared what my opponent said he would do all along: kill the pension.
And now we will pay the price for bad leadership. Aren’t you ready for a change?