At their first quarterly meeting of the year, the only that will have an impact this legislative session, Harris County Republican Party’s executive committee pushed support for specific pension reforms for the City of Houston

Though Houston’s pensions have been a long-running cause of concern, they only really came into the spotlight during the last municipal election. Since then, both pension debt and reform have dominated every policy discussion concerning the Bayou City.

While there are a few areas of agreement for those on opposing sides of reform, one area with consistent divide is whether or not new public employees should be given a defined-contribution plan, similar to a 401(k), rather than a defined-benefit plan (i.e. traditional pension).

HCRP chose the former, with the party’s Executive Committee specifically voting for:

  • Defined-contribution plans for new employees hired no later than January 1, 2019 (or earlier, if possible)
  • Public approval of pension obligation bonds
  • No removal, reduction, restriction, weakening or limitation on the current property tax cap

The original resolution language on pension obligations bonds would have permitted bypassing voter approval and allowed elected officials to approve “a one-time conversion to a defined contributions plan.” Thankfully, attentive committee members caught on and remedied the lapse.

Houston-area legislators should follow the lead of party precinct chairs in support of these reforms. Their base has spoken, but will they listen?

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.