Houston voters approved a $1 billion bond measure Tuesday that will reform the pension plan for police officers and city workers and help the city climb out of $8.2 billion in debt. The bond measure, labeled as “Proposition A,” won by a 77-23 margin with fewer than 100,000 votes cast.
The measure will contribute $750 million into the police pension fund and $250 million into the pension fund for city workers. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner sent the measure to Austin for approval from the Texas Legislature, but lawmakers told him he needed to get approval from the voters before putting such a massive bond measure in place.
The measure was part of a pension reform plan that attempts to resolve some management issues from previous administrations. As it stood, the pension plans were $8.2 billion in the red and would not be able to pay out future benefits for employees. The city negotiated with the police and city workers’ unions to craft the measure, and the unions agreed to cut their future benefits payments by $2.8 billion.
Prior to the referendum, Turner said if the measure failed, the city would need to cut more than 2,200 jobs, including police and firefighters, and that essential city service centers, such as clinics and libraries, would be forced to close. Turner also promised voters the new plan would not require any future tax increases or any future debt for the pension plans.
The ballot also included four other bond measures, Propositions B, C, D and E — all of which were approved by a similar margin. The measures included a $495 million bond to finance improvements to libraries, parks and government facilities.