Rawlings, Griggs Square Off Over Proposed Fixes to Dallas Police Pension

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
Mike Rawlings' Periscope

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has a lot of problems with Texas state Representative Dan Flynn's bill to fix Dallas' failing police and fire pension system. On Thursday afternoon, he aired them in a letter aimed at Dallas residents. The letter also laid out the fixes he believes can save the bill, which the mayor calls an "unprecedented and unnecessarily expensive Dallas pension taxpayer bailout."

Rawlings' criticism of Flynn's bill boils down to two essential points: The mayor believes that Flynn's plan requires Dallas taxpayers to contribute too much cash and doesn't do enough to ensure that the city controls the pension's board of directors.

"The Flynn taxpayer bailout plan requires us to pay into the fund based on the number of employees the chairman thinks we should hire, for an unlimited number of years," Rawlings said, criticizing the $1.35 billion contribution increase Flynn's legislation requires from Dallas taxpayers.

The mayor proposes that the city increase its minimum contribution to the fund for the next seven years, rather than the minimum of 30 years that Flynn's bill would require. He also wants Flynn to guarantee that the city will be allowed to play a roll nominating a majority of the fund's board. This would prevent the overextension of benefits and questionable investments that Rawling and others blame for the fund's $3.5 billion-plus unfunded liability.

Flynn's bill calls for an 11-member board with five city appointees, five member appointees and one joint appointee. Rawlings wants the state comptroller to nominate the 11th member, if the city and pension ever fail to come to an agreement as to who that joint member should be.

"Practically, without citizens holding a majority, the status quo of the financial nightmare is bound to repeat itself, with representatives of the beneficiaries voting themselves unrealistically high benefits," Rawlings said.

At the end of his letter, the mayor says that he wants Dallas residents to write and call their legislators "tell them to support Mayor Rawlings’ amendments to House Bill 3158." Dallas City council Member Scott Griggs said Thursday that what the mayor actually wants is to kill Flynn's bill.

Scott Griggs
Scott Griggs
Mark Graham

"I fear that this letter is part of an organized effort to kill the bill. Attempting to kill the bill is shameful," Griggs said in a lengthy rebuttal on Facebook Thursday afternoon. "[W]e cannot allow the bill to fail and be killed. If we don't have a legislative solution from Austin, then the Pension System will collapse in a short period of time straining the City in litigation while a mass exodus of police and firefighters occurs. A dire public safety crisis."

Current estimates suggest that, without a fix, the pension will be bankrupt in as little as 10 years. Griggs is the driving force behind a plan to fund increased contributions to the pension by withholding 1/8 of the 1 percent sales tax the city currently sends to Dallas Area Rapid Transit and sending it to the pension. Last week, the pension board voted to support Griggs' plan.

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"The Pension System crisis is a recapitalization problem. If Austin is going to tell us how much we need to pay, then taxpayers need to be enabled by Austin to select a funding source. And if you don't like the 1/8 penny from DART, please, please propose an alternative funding source. The Pension System crisis is now a public safety crisis," Griggs said.

The Texas House Pensions Committee voted 6-0 in favor of Flynn's bill last Wednesday.


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