A final deal to solve the Dallas Police and Fire Pension crisis was announced in Austin Thursday with key players on both sides of the long and bitter fight in the room.
Dallas Fire-Rescue Capt. Sam Friar, chairman of the pension board, recalled how lawmakers warned that neither side would like the final solution.
"And you are absolutely right about that," Friar said. "Neither side likes it, but it is something I think we can both agree to. It does save our pension fund long term."
The plan still needs votes from the full Texas Senate and Texas House, but a Senate committee passed it Thursday and leaders from both chambers spoke in favor of the latest plan.
"I think we can all walk out of this room thinking we all did something good for Texas," said State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, chairman of the House Pension Committee.
When the House passed another version of the deal earlier this month, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said it was too hard on taxpayers. The Dallas City Council endorsed the new deal Wednesday.
But Rawlings joined Flynn and employee group leaders Thursday in supporting the plan that was renegotiated with the help of State Sens. Royce West (D-Dallas) and Don Huffines (R-Dallas).
"I'm not thrilled about everything, but it's not important that I'm thrilled. It's not about me," Rawlings said. "It's about the city coming together. And that's what's happened today."
Employees will pay more and receive less in benefits. Taxpayers will also pay more but exact amounts were still being calculated.
A concession in the Senate version grants the city six of 11 members on a new Police and Fire Pension Board. The mayor insisted on city control instead of the current arrangement where eight of 12 appointees are employees or retirees. Employees won a Senate restriction that major benefit changes in the future will require a two-thirds vote of pension trustees.
The pension fund crisis was blamed on overly generous benefits, investments that failed to produce the needed return and deception about the true value of fund assets.
Dallas lost hundreds of police offices as conflict and fear over the pension crisis played out. The police force is now below 3,000 officers for the first time in many years, and hiring new officers is a slow process.
Rawlings said a major challenge now is to restore confidence.
"We've got to attract and retain our police and fire in order for us to continue the growth. Dallas is going to grow in the next 20 years. We are going to be a great city, but it won't be that way if we don't solve this issue," Rawlings said.