HB 2608 is easy in intent: it would get rid of the Legislature’s review of retirement benefits changes that metropolitan areas and their pensions work out for their local police, firefighters and municipal employees. Proponents say the Legislature interferes in city affairs which HB 2608 provides people paying local fees “an obvious voice” in how their pension system operates.
But is some of that true? A good many local pensions, by using their city government authorities, searched for years ago to enshrine employee-contribution and city- rates, retirement age advantage formulas, and cost of living adjustments in state code. Mayors and city councils have fleeting political and budget goals in the long life of a city.
Pensions, on the other hand, are designed with long-term profits in mind. They estimate hard financial mathematics every day to ensure that their investments will meet future pension benefits. While local elections and competing budget priorities among council members may resemble a tennis match, the pensions are playing chess. Considering that our pensions are one of the better performing in the country, the system has worked well. So along comes HB 2608, wanting to persuade a majority of legislators that the problems now being experienced in Houston warrant wholesale change to the structure of pensions across Texas. Inside our view, Houston’s issues with its pensions didn’t stem from relating to the legislature in pension issues.
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Decades back, various leaders started short-changing the pensions of the money they had a need to remain actuarially viable. Initially the pensions proceeded to go along, recognizing the city’s claims for re-payment. As time on went, and the town kept digging holes, the pensions balked at agreeing to any more “deals” that offered the city’s short-term budget goals, but ignored the long-term liabilities of their pensions. TEXPERS maintains an attention on the investment performance of local pensions. Our yearly research shows most pensions, when given a chance by their cities, do a great job of getting the investment returns needed to keep the promises their city makes to public employees. Only once cities balk at honoring their commitments do pensions enter trouble, such as has happened in Houston. Keep the current system of balances and assessments which includes worked so well across the great state of Tx.
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