Pension reform initiative reworked

Pension reformThe leaders of California’s pension reform movement have scrapped their previous effort, introducing two new schemes instead.

The news added a fresh twist to the state’s long-running game of political cat and mouse, which has seen state officials labor to cast would-be reforms in a negative light.

Switching gears

Previously, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio had forged ahead with a proposal that would subject all pension increases to voter approval.

But that initiative’s path forward was complicated by Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is legally responsible for summarizing initiatives on the ballots used by Californians statewide. As the Sacramento Bee observed, the language used in the summaries has proven significant “because it appears on petition materials used to qualify them for the ballot, often shaping voters’ first impression of an initiative’s contents. Perhaps even more important, the wording affects potential contributors’ willingness to underwrite a campaign.”

So, since “the state’s constitution protects public employee pensions and benefits from being cut,” Reason noted, “when Harris summarized DeMaio and Reed’s ballot initiative, as the law requires her to do, she declared that it ‘Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including those working in K-12 schools, higher education, hospitals, and police protection, for future work performed.'”

According to the original language of the withdrawn initiative, the state government “shall not enhance the pension benefits of any employee in a defined benefit pension plan unless the voters of that jurisdiction approve.” Harris’s language, critics said, uses grammatical sleight of hand to make it seem like benefits will be taken away, instead of simply not given in the first place. “It’s clear that ‘shall not enhance’ is not the same as ‘eliminates,'” as the Orange County Register recently editorialized.

Testing Harris

For DeMaio and Reed, however, Harris created a problem and an opportunity. By pulling the initiative in favor of a couple new and slightly altered proposals, the two hoped to show that Harris “used what they consider ‘poison pill’ language to describe the new measures as she has three previous pension change proposals since 2011,” according to the Bee.

“If she does, DeMaio said, ‘we think she’ll be giving us the evidence we need’ to successfully sue Harris for unfairly skewing her description of pension initiatives.”

The new would-be measures differ slightly. The so-called Voter Empowerment Initiative would require voter approval for “pension benefits for new government employees, increases in benefits for existing employees or taxpayer subsidies of benefits of more than 50 percent,” according to the San Jose Mercury News. The Government Pension Cap Act, meanwhile, “would limit government contributions to new employees’ retirement benefits to 11 percent of base compensation [and] 13 percent for safety employees.”

If DeMaio and Reed wind up dissatisfied with Harris’s summaries of both proposals, Reed said, they’ll challenge her in court. If both pass their scrutiny, however, they would only move forward with one.

Public support

Although pension reform has become a political hot potato in California, public support has gathered for some kind of curbs on its excesses. A recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California revealed that “72 percent of likely voters say the amount of money spent on public employee pensions is a problem,” pollsters noted, while 70 percent prefer that voters make at least some “decisions about retirement benefits for public employees.” At the same time, only “24 percent say state and local governments should make all the decisions.”

Those numbers roughly reflected the level of concern over pensions measured nationwide. In a Reason-Rupe poll, 72 percent said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned that state and local governments weren’t able to meet pension promises extended to public employees. “A similar number (74 percent) are concerned that state or local governments will raise taxes in the future in order to meet these pension obligations,” Reason added. “When asked to prioritize dealing with the pension crisis, 35 percent said pension reform should be a top priority, while 41 percent said pension reform should be an important but lower priority.”


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  1. Dude
    Dude 7 October, 2015, 08:07

    Gee, another liberal politician in bed with the state mafia…I mean “unions”. What a shocker.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ulysess Uhaul
    Ulysess Uhaul 7 October, 2015, 09:09

    Pensions are guaranteed. Pension shortfalls are a state obligation.



    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 7 October, 2015, 12:54

      State obligation…err…right doofus.

      Reply this comment
      • Ulysses Uhaul
        Ulysses Uhaul 9 October, 2015, 13:16


        Your insults are so infantile….suck off the snow cone juice of your thumb at your truck stop graveyard career position….snow cone dipper!

        Reply this comment
        • SeeSaw
          SeeSaw 11 October, 2015, 09:52

          He is one commenter that should be banned from all forums. He lobs insulting comments at me even when I have not entered a particular forum. I will have to stop participating due to his constant harassment. He will soon find his only audience being himself.

          Reply this comment
          • Rex the Wonder Dog!
            Rex the Wonder Dog! 12 October, 2015, 21:52

            He is one commenter that should be banned from all forums

            Yes, you would LOVE that seesaw, so only YOUR “talking points” could be posted…..sad…and pathetic.

          • SeeSaw
            SeeSaw 12 October, 2015, 23:45

            Well I agree with you about talking points Rex. That is what you should be putting forth instead of lobbing a personal insult back at me every time I comment.

    • ricky65
      ricky65 8 October, 2015, 10:06

      As usual, another mindless, self serving and unrelated comment regarding the article.
      The article exposes the disgraceful, corrupt, self serving behavior of an elected official, Kamala Harris who is basically a sock puppet for the PE unions as was her predecessor, Jerky Brown.
      She needs the cash of the PE unions in her race for governor. Since the union tail always wags the Dema-Rat party dog in this state, she willingly prostitutes herself for their dirty, stolen cash.
      BTW- Regarding your unrelated comment that pensions are a state obligation: What do you think will happen if the state cannot meet its pension obligations? Do you really think the people of this state, or even the D-Rats who control it will stand for basic services cut to the bone? Do you think the few taxpayers left here are willing to pay even more crushing tax burden so some pampered, overpaid PERS retirees can live better than the rest of the folks who support their fat lifestyle?
      Get ready for a short haircut and the view from the underside of a bus.

      Reply this comment
    • Dude McCool
      Dude McCool 30 May, 2018, 16:06

      Didn’t you mean, “Viola'” Ciao? Stick to pigeon english.

      Reply this comment
  3. Ted
    Ted 7 October, 2015, 19:09

    Right u are u haul! Di mayo and reed….. Lmao

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 October, 2015, 09:15

      Good ting you are an old fart Steals, ready to kick, otherwise you would be taking a pension cut in a few years like the rest of the trough feeders.

      Reply this comment
      • Ted
        Ted 8 October, 2015, 11:36

        That’s sort of a sad thought even for a depressed and agitated doomer like yourself poodle
        Imagine this…you’re going to go thru your whole life with pension envy!
        Kinda sad little buddy!

        Reply this comment
        • Ulysses Uhaul
          Ulysses Uhaul 9 October, 2015, 13:22

          Teddy….Poooo is frustrated with his career opportunities in Afelanto.

          Go lite on the lad.

          By the way social security goes up 1.7% next year….

          Reply this comment
          • Rex the Wonder Dog!
            Rex the Wonder Dog! 12 October, 2015, 21:54

            Steals, you and A-haul should unite…IN TROUGH FEEDER MISERY!

  4. MyNewsLogin
    MyNewsLogin 9 October, 2015, 07:44

    You state, ” Harris’s language, critics said, uses grammatical sleight of hand to make it seem like benefits will be taken away, instead of simply not given in the first place.”

    Perhaps you should read the petition. The language affecting current employees is pretty clear.

    Start with: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution or any other law:” Stating that the current protections would be replaced by the provisions of this measure.

    The first provision starts the take-aways: “Voters have the right to use the power of initiative or referendum provided in Article II, to determine the amount of and manner in which compensation and retirement benefits are provided to employees of a government employer.” Notice, it does not say “new employees” it says “employees” which means it would apply to everyone.

    The fifth provision also allows take-aways from current employees: “Government agencies and retirement boards must fully and faithfully implement voter approved initiatives that affect government employee compensation and retirement benefits approved by voters, whether placed on the ballot by a government agency or by voters.” Again, it refers to compensation of all employees, not just new employees.

    The tenth provision allows changes to current employees retirement benefits: “Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to reduce the retirement benefits earned by government employees for work performed.” This means that future benefits can be changed – now prevented by Constitutional protections.

    Reply this comment
  5. Donkey
    Donkey 12 October, 2015, 10:09

    All pensions and benefits need to be reduced for the RAGWUS feeders, to no more than the average household income of a private sector Californian. The RAGWUS thieves have plenty of other scams for enhancing their retirement, not the least of which is being over paid at every turn. 🙂

    Reply this comment
    • Teddy
      Teddy 12 October, 2015, 19:58

      Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz you’re putting us to sleep Duncey girl

      Reply this comment
      • Rex the Wonder Dog!
        Rex the Wonder Dog! 12 October, 2015, 21:56

        Donk, you have DESTROYED teddy steals so many times I lost count…FIVE YEATRS AGO!

        Steals will never recover, you have owned him for so long.

        Reply this comment
        • Donkey
          Donkey 12 October, 2015, 22:23

          That’s what we have come to expect from a RAGWUS feeder Ted the Parrot, lazy, sleepy losers stealing from the taxpayers. 🙂

          Reply this comment
          • Donkey
            Donkey 12 October, 2015, 22:27

            Rex, you make a fool out of every RAGWUS feeder you write about, and they are so stupid, they don’t even know how dumb they look. 🙂

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