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Meet The Man With The Keys To Fix The Dallas Police And Fire Pension Fund

Dan Flynn
State Rep. Dan Flynn during the 84th legislative session.

A Texas House pensions committee advanced a bill to the full House this week aimed at fixing the Dallas Police and Fire Pension fund. The key figure in Austin for the troubled pension funds in Dallas and Houston is a small town-Republican.

State Rep. Dan Flynn comes from the tiny town of Van, about an hour east of Dallas. When he was asked to chair the House Pensions committee, Flynn said he did not expect the mess he was tasked to solve.

“There are 93 pensions in the state of Texas,” he said. “Not including Houston and Dallas, 36 of them are actuarially unsound.”

A possible fix

Both Dallas and Houston’s pensions have billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities. This legislative session, he filed separate bills to address the cities’ issues.

The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System could go broke within a decade because of risky investments and unsustainable benefits. If that happens, Dallas first responders are left without a retirement plan.

Flynn’s bill would cut some of the most generous benefits, and require the city of Dallas to pay a minimum amount into the pension system every year, regardless of how many first responders are working.

Interview Highlights: Dan Flynn…

…on Mayor Mike Rawlings saying the city was ‘bamboozled’ during negotiations:

“I told him I didn’t think he was dealing in good faith because everything we had been doing, he’s been right along with us and what he’s wanting to do is to move back to where we started. I’m highly offended he would say we’re bamboozling him. I looked the word up in the dictionary and I didn’t like the definition.”

…On whether his bill is a bailout:

“No. There’s three things we need to accomplish. We need to bring the actuarial soundness, we’ve got to make sure the retired members will continue to have their pension, and then we want the new people coming in and the ones that are working right now to know that they’re going to have a pension that’s going to be viable for them when they start drawing it. To say that it’s a bailout or to say that we’ve moved the goalposts, those have been our three requirements from day one.”   

…On the differences between Dallas and Houston’s pension problems:

“The [Dallas Police & Fire] Pension Board has a lot of blame, or responsibilities they didn’t own up to. The city never did fill up board member positions and the board members that were there didn’t show up for meetings. When you don’t show up, you still have that fiduciary responsibility.

In the Houston situation, basically they were not putting the money into the plan they were required to, so their approach has to be different. We don’t do cookie cutter, we like local control, we like for the local people to be able to solve them. We’d like to be the arbitrator to help them. I told them initially, I said ‘if you don’t fix it, I will. You will not like my fix. We’re not going to allow the pensions of the two largest cities in Texas go under.’”   

Rep. Dan Flynn is a state representative from Van and chairs the Texas House pensions committee.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.