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Houston mayor says city is broke

Democratic Mayor John Whitmire said Houston is “broke” at a City Council meeting last week, offering tax hikes and a 5% spending cut to combat the city’s deficit.

“I think we can all agree on that, we are broke,” Whitmire said at the meeting, according to FOX 26 Houston. “This gives us a chance to discuss the financial picture of this city. It is broken. It was broken when I got here.”

Former Mayor Sylvester Turner left his position in January, claiming he was leaving the city with a $420 million budget surplus. However, Houston has been spending more than it brings in, resulting in a $160 million deficit, the local outlet reported.

“On an annual basis, we are spending somewhere between $150 million and $200 million more than is coming in,” Chris Hollins, the city’s comptroller, told ABC 13.

The budget surplus reportedly came from $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds, which Turner used on city expenses.

To help alleviate some of the deficit, Whitmire is proposing a 5% cut to all city spending, with exceptions to firefighters and police officers, and is exploring other funding opportunities including turning to taxpayers.

Whitmire’s settlement plan with the city’s firefighters union is expected to cost taxpayers $650 million over the course of the next five years, however, Hollins said Monday that the number could be higher because it doesn’t take into account fees and interest, the Houston Landing reported.

“I’m not going to play games with people’s lives,” Whitmire said. “I’m not going to play politics with people’s lives. So we have a responsibility to settle with the firefighters and protect Houstonians.”

While Houston grapples with a looming budget deficit, Texas, which does not have a state income tax, as a whole is enjoying a $32.7 billion surplus from 2023 and continues to lead the nation economically.

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