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California Government Employee Pension Reform Act Initiative (2012)

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A California Government Employee Pension Reform Act Initiative (#11-0063, #11-0064) will not be on the state's November 6, 2012 ballot. Its supporters announced in early February 2012 that they were pulling the plug on a 2012 campaign "after determining that the Attorney General's false and misleading title and summary makes it nearly impossible to pass."[1]

Two versions of a potential statewide ballot measure were filed with the Attorney General of California's office on November 2, 2011 by Daniel Pellissier.

John Myers, the Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED's California Report, characterized the initiatives as "two new and explosive initiative proposals to rework the pensions of public employees in California."[2]

Ballot title controversy

Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, came under attack for the ballot titles her office wrote for the pension reform initiative.

Steven Greenhut, a conservative columnist, wrote, "Unfortunately, California Attorney General Kamala Harris' recent misuse of power to provide a dishonest ballot title and summary for proposed pension-reform initiatives, which she opposes, comes right out of the totalitarian playbook, where those wielding power recognize no rules of decency or fairness...when California Pension Reform submitted two initiatives that would rein in the unsustainable costs of the state's pension system, Harris decided to behave as a political operative and besmirch the office she holds by distorting the official descriptions that most voters rely upon when making their voting decision."[3]

Specifically, according to Greenhut:

"In January, she titled the reform measures: "Reduces pensions for public employees." That's flat-out wrong. Her summary was filled with distortions meant to sway voters against them. As result, last week the pension reform group dropped the initiative. They couldn't raise the $2 million needed to gather the signatures given the overwhelming obstacle Harris put in their way."[3]

The liberal editorial board of the Modesto Bee similarly opined:

"Her office's official description of the two measures read like talking points taken straight from a public employee union boss' campaign handbook. Harris claimed the measures would reduce retirement income for current employees, which is not true. She also claimed that future government employees would lose survivor and death benefits, also not true."[4]

The San Diego Union-Tribune's editorial board referred to it as "Kamala Harris' dirty trick on California."[5]

The editorial board of the Contra Costa Times wrote in an editorial, "Dan Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform, which presented the ballot initiatives to Harris, called her titles and summaries ugly, partisan and manipulative. He's absolutely right; union opponents of the measure couldn't have been more partisan had they written the summary."[6]

Text of measure

See also: Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions

11-0063

Ballot title:

Reduces Pension Benefits for Public Employees. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Official summary:

"Reduces pension benefits for current and future public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, but excluding judges. Eliminates constitutional protections for current and future public employees' vested pension benefits. Limits employer contributions toward pensions for new employees. Prohibits defined-benefit pensions for new employees. Limits cost-of-living adjustments for retired and current employees. Prohibits public retirement systems from providing death or disability benefits to future employees. Requires that current employees add up to three percent of their salary to their pension contribution per year, when pension plan is underfunded."

Summary of estimated fiscal impact:

See also: Fiscal impact statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions

(This is a summary of the initiative's estimated "fiscal impact on state and local government" prepared by the California Legislative Analyst's Office and the Director of Finance.)

"Over the next two or three decades, potentially significant increased annual costs or some savings in state and local government personnel costs, depending on how this measure is interpreted and administered. In the long run (several decades from now), annual savings in state and local government personnel costs of billions of dollars per year (in current dollars), offset to some extent by increases in other employee compensation costs."

11-0064

Ballot title:

Reduces Pension Benefits for Public Employees. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Official summary:

"Reduces pension benefits for current and future public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, but excluding judges. Eliminates constitutional protections for current and future public employees' vested pension benefits. Creates hybrid pension plan for new employees, capping collective benefits at 75 percent of salary. Limits cost-of-living adjustments for retired and current employees. Prohibits public retirement systems from providing death or disability benefits to future employees. Requires that current employees add up to three percent of their salary to their pension contribution annually, when pension plan is underfunded."

Summary of estimated fiscal impact:

(This is a summary of the initiative's estimated "fiscal impact on state and local government" prepared by the California Legislative Analyst's Office and the Director of Finance.)

"Over the next two or three decades, either increased annual costs or annual savings in state and local government personnel costs, depending on how this measure is interpreted and administered. In the long run (several decades from now), depending on how the Legislature designs the required hybrid retirement plan, potential annual savings in state and local government personnel costs of billions of dollars per year (in current dollars), offset to some extent by increases in other employee compensation costs."

Supporters

Supporters of the proposed initiative included:

  • George Schultz, the former United States Secretary of State. He said, "For far too long the leaders of this state have failed to address the growing problem of unfunded pension liabilities. According to the legislature’s own watchdog agency, the unfunded liability is a bill in excess of $20,000 owed by every household in California. Unless we act now, the situation only will get worse and will have a devastating impact on public safety, education and critical safety net services. This effort is a full and thoughtful solution that in the short term will stop the fiscal hemorrhaging and in the long term sets an example of how to get this state back on track."[7]
  • Mike Genest, the former California Director of Finance. He said, "Other than defenders of the status quo, no one disagrees that our unfunded pension and retiree benefit obligations are decimating the capacity of our state and local governments to deliver critical public services. Unless we act now the situation will only get worse. While we would prefer to see a legislative solution to this problem, we know full well that there is little chance of that happening. We cannot afford to postpone decisive reform while our elected leaders debate half measures. We must act now."[7]
  • Dan Pellissier and Marcia Fritz of the group California Pension Reform.[2]
  • Roger Niello.[2]
  • Duf Sundheim, a former chairman of the California Republican Party.[8]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

See also

External links

References


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