Crisis Averted! Why the Fixers of the Dallas Police Pension Are My Texans of the Year

Pension problems can be so gnarly that they never get fixed.In 44 states, the funding gap for public pensions grew larger last year, a trend that’s been building since the early 2000s. New Jersey, Kentucky and Illinois have only about a third of what’s needed to pay retirement benefits, and taxpayers in most of the country are on the hook for billions in future obligations.Some pensions were so underwater that their sponsors used bankruptcy to escape them. Think of Detroit, United Airlines and Bethlehem Steel.That was the context for this year’s reckoning at the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System — and why its rescue was monumental.The pension provides retirement security for 10,000 public safety workers and their families, and it was on course to go broke in less than a decade. Without a fix, Dallas was headed toward a fiscal cliff and a mutiny in local government.The city took a hit on its credit rating and faced the prospect of additional downgrades and paying millions more to borrow.“The pension is a significant risk to the fiscal health of the city,” Dallas chief financial officer Elizabeth Reich said in January.She called it a crisis, and over the next four months, a surprising coalition came together to address it. Police, firefighters, politicians and business leaders hammered out a true compromise — a plan that everyone had some problems with.  Continue reading...

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