A pair of potential ballot initiatives written to overhaul California’s public pensions could face a rough road, according to a new poll.
The results from a Capital & Main-David Binder Research poll of 500 likely voters shows that if the election were held today, the numbers of those voting for the measures and those against them appear to be dead even. Those numbers are not what pension-reduction advocates had hoped for going into the 2016 election cycle.
Drafted by former Democratic San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former Republican San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, the so-called Voter Empowerment Initiative, and its sibling, the Government Pension Cap Act, received their official summary language (though not their official titles) from the state attorney general last week. Low numbers and lack of support among DeMaio’s fellow Republicans had already forced the pair to abandon a previous effort,
On Tuesday California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris released the full title and summary text for the Public Employees Pension and Retiree Healthcare Benefits Initiative Constitutional Amendment. The title is a mouthful, but the initiative’s wording is just six sentences long.
Its first two lines read: “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. Adds initiative/referendum powers to Constitution, for determining public employee compensation and retirement benefits.”
Crucially, Harris omits mention of “empowering” voters — a main selling point that had been advertised by former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed, former San Diego City Councilman and Tea Party member Carl DeMaio, and four others. In June this group submitted their proposed ballot initiative to Harris as the Voter Empowerment Act of 2016. Harris’ new title weakens their cause,
On Tuesday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris will release the official title and summary that will appear on the 2016 ballot for former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed’s latest statewide public-sector pension cutting initiative.
That language will finally end speculation on how far Harris will go in describing the sweeping scope of the proposed constitutional amendment. Legal analysts have charged that it contains a hidden trigger aimed at not just slashing pension benefits but annihilating 60 years of state pension law along with the vast retirement systems that together guarantee the retirement promises made to California’s public employees.
Initial clues as to what might appear on the 2016 ballot emerged last week as the first formal responses by state officials to the proposed measure began to trickle in.
The stakes for all Californians in the so-called “Voter Empowerment Act of 2016” couldn’t be higher.
For Reed and his supporters,
The newest front in the battle over the retirement security of California’s public employees opened June 4 with the release of the language for a proposed ballot initiative that would rewrite the state’s constitution to virtually outlaw traditional defined-benefit pension plans for future state and municipal workers.
The measure, dubbed “The Voter Empowerment Act of 2016,” would effectively shift all new public employees from the various defined-benefit plans currently in place to 401(k) plans, beginning in 2019. It would then lock those plans in place by adding the burden of direct voter approval on government employers who want to continue offering traditional pensions after 2019.
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The security offered by defined-benefit retirement plans has been typically used by government employers to compete with the private sector in recruiting quality candidates for public workforces.
California pension cutters suffered another setback last week when a state appellate court rejected their claims that ballot language written by Attorney General Kamala Harris showed political bias.
The decision by Sacramento’s 3rd District Court of Appeal “dismissed as moot” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s appeal of a lower court ruling. This effectively leaves in place Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner’s March decision that Reed had failed to prove Harris’ ballot summary was misleading.
“We’re not going to get a hearing on the merits,” Reed told Capital & Main. “It shows how difficult it is to try to get through the court system in an election cycle; it means you have to start earlier.”
Legally, the two rulings sound a final death knell for Reed’s contentious statewide campaign to put his self-described Pension Reform Act of 2014 before California voters. In practical terms,