Halloween is here and that means trick or treating, costumes, and lots of scares! Including from some places that you might not expect.

The Pension Review Board (PRB), the state agency charged with overseeing Texas’ state and local retirement systems, is out with some relatively new information on pension debt that’s sure to frighten taxpayers and retirees alike.

According to the PRB’s August 2016 Actuarial Valuations Report, unfunded liabilities, or the difference between what’s been promised to retirees and what’s actually on hand to provide for those benefits, soared to a deficit of more than $61 billion. That’s up almost $1 billion dollars in just six months’ time compared to the agency’s February 2016’s report. And much, much higher compared to about this time last year.

The growing gap between the pension promises being made and the money on hand to make good on those promises is one of Texas’ most pressing problems, as already evidenced in places like Houston and Dallas (see here, here, and here for example). Inaction is quickly becoming a luxury the state doesn’t have.

Fortunately, the 85th Texas Legislature is set to convene soon and with it comes the next best opportunity for Texans to start tackling its growing pension problems. One solution in particular—restoring local pension control—holds promise because it would empower citizens locally to make some much-needed changes to their community’s retirement systems without having to get legislative approval each and every time. This would remove a big obstacle for those seeking commonsense reform in an otherwise frightening fiscal environment.

To learn more about restoring local control, see HB 2608 and SB 1994 from the last legislative session.