AUSTIN - The Texas House of Representatives unanimously approved a plan to salvage the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund.
Mayor Mike Rawlings fought the measure that he says will commit taxpayers to the costly bailout. He believes current and future retirees who are in the fund do not bear enough of the pain.
But the author of the rescue plan said it will spread the problem out over the entire city, not just pensioners and their survivors.
Ennis Hill and Steve Bass are two retired firefighters who never thought they would be spending their golden years trying to fight for the benefits promised to them.
"What worries me is the failure of the pension fund,” Hill said.
"It is a frightening, scary thing,” Bass admitted.
The two have spent the past three days trying to convince lawmakers in Austin to pass the bill that would save their pension.
“Tried to hit every member of the house, all 150 of them,” Hill said.
Without social security, the pension is the only thing first responders have to live on.
“It is heart wrenching that the pension could possibly fail,” Bass said.
The bill will make the pension solvent in an estimated 42 years. But Rawlings has called it a ‘taxpayer bailout’ that will cost the city $1.5 billion.
Dallas Police Association President Frederick Frazier points out the bill costs police and fire a lot, too.
“It is hard to cheer and say this is great because it will take so much commitment from police and fire city,” he said. “Everyone will have to do their part to push this forward."
Frazier says the alternative would be more costly for everyone.
“Because you have police and fire on the verge of collapsing,” he said. “Ad without them, you have a city on the verge of that.”
House Pension Committee Chairman Dan Flynn says based on the numbers his office has analyzed, he does not believe his bill will require a tax increase for Dallas homeowners. He is now reviewing the amendments proposed at the 11th hour by a south Dallas representative Yvonne Davis. But with all this, Flynn is not feeling much pressure to tack on the amendments.
"It is a great reward to get all members voting for you, particularly on a big bill."
Rawlings was not in Austin but said in a statement, "Texas House members delivered a brutal and unprecedented blow to Dallas taxpayers. I'm disappointed but not surprised that the House is poised to pass the Flynn Dallas taxpayer bailout package."
The bill passed 132-0. If the bill passed on Thursday, it will then go to the Senate.