Jon Coupal is nothing if not blunt when he describes one motive behind a Ventura County ballot measure that would replace the “defined benefit” pensions currently enjoyed by county employees and replace them with 401(k)-type plans for all future hires.
“This is meant to be a template for other counties,” Coupal tells Capital & Main. By that, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s president means the measure’s conservative and libertarian backers see the “Sustainable Retirement System Initiative” as the newest and most promising weapon in their assault on California’s public employee retirement plans. Having failed to place similar measures on state ballots in 2012 and 2014, a coalition of wealthy individuals, anti-tax activists and government privatizers has seized on an aspect of California law that allows 20 counties to fashion their own public employee retirement policies apart from the CalPERS system that administers such policies for nearly all of the state’s remaining 38 counties.
In 2011, the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education put out a study that should have sparked mass rallies up and down the Golden State. The report found that nearly half of California workers will retire in or near poverty. In other words, a state once synonymous with the American Dream of economic opportunity and security is on a path to become a purgatory for millions of seniors.
It’s hard to square this alarming fact with the revelation last month that a group of mostly ultra-conservative electeds and activists will try to place a statewide measure on the 2014 ballot that would slash the pensions of government workers. The group, headed by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, includes Texas billionaire John Arnold, who has made “pension reform” a personal crusade.
The initiative would not only cut the retirement benefits of future public sector workers,
Last week San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed delivered his usual speech about the benefits of slashing the retirement benefits of his city’s public employees – and why he is now pushing for a statewide ballot measure that could dramatically change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians. Reed’s initiative – which he characterizes as a bipartisan effort and which hasn’t yet qualified for the 2014 ballot — would allow the state and local governments to reduce retirement benefits for current employees for the years of work they perform after the measure’s changes go into effect. What was not usual about Reed’s speech was its setting: The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, 3,000 miles from California.
The latest chapter in the efforts to dismantle California’s public-sector retirement system was officially opened Tuesday when San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed submitted paperwork that begins the process of qualifying his latest pension initiative for next year’s statewide ballot.
The filing brings to a climax weeks of speculation about the timing of the proposed law after Frying Pan News first confirmed rumors of its existence when Gary Cohn published a leaked draft version last month and when we reported Reed’s remarks, delivered before a Hoover Institution conference on pensions, that indicated he was uncertain whether he would file for the 2014 or 2016 ballot. Now Reed is certain: It’s 2014 or never.
Called the Pension Reform Act of 2014, the measure seeks to rewrite California’s constitution in order to bypass its current guarantees of public pension rights. If passed by voters,
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed made it official today – sort of. Speaking to a pension “restructuring” conference at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Reed said he hoped to file papers “in a few days” to put a ballot measure before voters that would allow cities in California to gut the retirement plans of their public employees. But he acknowledged that he and a group of fellow activists weren’t sure whether to put the measure on the ballot for November 2014 or sometime in 2016. (If the pension group wants to beat an approaching deadline and keep 2014 open as an option, it has to file papers soon.)
The lack of urgency contrasted with Reed’s half-hour talk, during which he painted a picture of a California teetering on the brink of pension-fund disaster, in which public safety employees would be laid off, libraries closed and retirement benefits decimated.
“Time is of the essence,” Reed warned – claiming that the longer his proposed amendment to the state constitution is postponed,