Local Deficits

Bill King offers Kudos to Rep. Murphy & Sen. Bettencourt

A Texas-sized Tip of the Hat from Kingwood TEA Party to CM Dave Martin & Michael Kubosh, all the CM who attended , and especially Sen. Paul Bettencourt who fought the Mayor’s and CM Sylvester Turner’s Horrendous Pension Deal for the City of Houston’s Taxpayers!

They didn’t get to have a vote because 2 of Mayor Parker’s supporters walked out to break quorum when they realized the vote would go against her by a large margin.

Thank you for getting Houston’s tremendous pension and debt problems in the public record! Make sure you ask the mayoral candidates what they plan to do about this looming disaster, esp. Mayoral Candidate Sylvester Turner who worked with the Mayor on this TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD PENSION DEAL!

Learn more (audio): 2. 3-13-15 The Amigos 5P by Paul, Ben, & Bruce. Time: 51:10


March 17, 2015

Kudos to Murphy and Bettencourt

In Bill White’s first State of the City speech in 2003, he warned that increases in the City’s pension benefits that were granted in 2001-2002 were much more costly than had been previously estimated and that they could jeopardize the City’s financial stability.

To his credit, Mayor White made pension reform a priority early in his administration, winning significant concessions from the plan that covers police officers and another that covers civilian municipal employees.  He was unsuccessful in making any changes to the plan that covers fire department employees.  Since the reforms White obtained in 2004-2005, there has been no additional progress in reining in the rapidly escalating costs of the City’s pensions.

The principal obstacle to pension reform is that Houston’s pension are mandated by the State Legislature.  In many ways, the plans are the ultimate unfunded mandate.  The Legislature forces Houston taxpayers to pay pension benefits but offers no State assistance to fund those benefits.

That is why it is noteworthy that State Representative Jim Murphy and State Senator Paul Bettencourt have recently introduced bills which would address Houston’s unsustainable pension plans.  Their bills take somewhat different approaches, and both probably need some additional refinement.  But the mere fact that two Houston legislators have finally stepped forward to address this issue is extremely important.  Representative Murphy and Senator Bettencourt should be commended for their courage to begin a serious conversation about this critical issue.

Pension reform is a difficult and emotional issue.  Employees who have given years of service to the City based on the promise of a pension are justifiably alarmed by any discussion that would renege on the promises made to them.  Any reform should protect the benefits current employees have earned.

In Texas, a deal is a deal.

But to continue making promises to new employees that we know will ultimately bankrupt the City and jeopardize the pensions that have promised is simply irresponsible.  Decades ago, the private sector recognized the unsustainability of defined benefit plans and made the transition to defined contribution plans.

Hopefully, Representative Murphy’s and Senator Bettencourt’s colleagues will join them passing legislation that will protect the pensions of current employees and retirees AND recognize that Houston taxpayers are not a bottomless well.

Visit http://www.billkingforhouston.com for more information.

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College System Funding Options Available

Dr. Kyle Scott, TheConservative Professor from 1070 AM radio

Click on image for bio.

Letter to the Editor, The Observer – Atascocita
Published Thursday, Mar. 28, 2013

Dear Editor:

When there is a revenue shortage government entities seek to sell bonds or raise taxes. Either way the government is asking taxpayers to foot the bill in the long term and the short term. We should be particularly concerned with bond sells because of the debt load they produce. Adding debt simply because it is the way things are traditionally done is not a good enough reason to keep doing it. Cyprus should be a warning bell to every government entity. The strategy of adding debt to fund unnecessary projects is being adopted by the Lone Star College System (LSCS) as it has approved a bond issue to be put before the voters on the May 11th ballot. LSCS is looking for voters to approve an additional $500 million in debt after they just approved a bond issue six years ago. Rather than tacking on more debt and burdening the taxpayer LSCS needs to get creative. There are four strategies LSCS could adopt if it wants to raise more revenue in a responsible and debt free manner.

First, LSCS should tap the private sector and philanthropic entities. LSCS should sell the naming rights to its buildings to corporations the same way large research institutes and sports franchises do. Corporations get their name on a building which builds name recognition and community good will and the college gets revenue. Smaller items can be included by holding public auctions or fundraisers where local businesses and private individuals can bid on items as small as a desk or a suite of offices.

LSCS can also expand its hybrid and online course offerings. It seems arcane to think that hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on brick and mortar when the entire educational enterprise is moving online. Hybrid classes, which are part traditional courses and part online, would serve as a great compromise. If a class is scheduled to meet Monday/Wednesday from 12-2 then it could meet Monday online and Wednesday in a traditional setting. Another class scheduled for the same time and days could then be scheduled to meet in the same classroom on Mondays and online on Wednesdays. This would allow two classes scheduled at the same time to use one room therefore eliminating the need for additional classrooms or parking spaces.

Additionally, since most of the day classrooms and parking spaces sit empty, the college system should find a way to use all the space all the time rather than building additional facilities to accommodate the few peak hours. Some time slots, such as late Friday afternoon, are unpopular among students and therefore attract fewer students. There is no reason to build more classrooms if the college already has some sitting empty. To attract students to these time slots the college system should offer reduced fees for students willing to sign up for unpopular time slots. Most LSCS students could use a break on fees anyway so this recommendation is a winner for everyone as it helps students, taxpayers, and the college system.

The fourth recommendation builds on the idea that the facilities should not sit idle. If you go on any of the Lone Star campuses in the evening or on the weekends there is almost no one there. This is a waste of space and money. But, this space could be rented out to corporations and non-profit entities who need a place to hold meetings, conferences, or training sessions. The fees would create an additional revenue stream in addition to building the college’s profile among the local business community in a way that would benefit students.

Each of these recommendations would require administrators and board members to think differently. But, the way things have always been done is not the only way to get things done. If our education system is to keep pace with a dynamic business culture then it needs to become fresh and dynamic as well.

Kyle Scott, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science and Honors College
University of Houston

Dr. Kyle Scott is running for Lone Star College System Board of Trustees, Position #2.
Vote for him in the May 11, 2013 Election!

Dr. Scott is also the author of Federalist Papers: A Reader’s Guide. He teaches American politics and constitutional law at the University of Houston. His commentary on current events has appeared in Forbes, Reuters, Christian Science Monitor, Foxnews.com, Huffington Post, and dozens of local outlets including the Orlando Sentinel, Charlotte Observer, Philadelphia Inquirer, Houston Chronicle and Baltimore Sun. Contact him at kyle.a.scott@hotmail.com; 212 MD Anderson Library, Honors College, University of Houston, Houston, Texas 77004.