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Washington Police and Fire Retirement System, Initiative 790 (2002)

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The Washington Police and Fire Retirement System Initiative, also known as Initiative 790, was on the November 5, 2002 ballot as an Initiative to the People in the State of Washington, where it was approved. By the terms of I-790, management of police and firemen's retirement system is placed in a board of trustees consisting of six plan participants, three employer representatives, and two legislators.

Election results

Washington Initiative 790 (2002)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 903,113 53.02%
No800,10546.98%

Election results via the Washington Secretary of State.[1]

Text of the measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[2]

Initiative Measure No. 790 concerns law enforcement officers’ and fire fighters’ retirement system, plan 2. This measure would place management of the law enforcement officers’ and fire fighters’ retirement system, plan 2, in a board of trustees consisting of six plan participants, three employer representatives, and two legislators.

Should this measure be enacted into law?[3]

Path to the ballot

The language for I-790 was filed on March 5, 2002 by Kelly L. Fox and Harold W. Hanson of Olympia. 345,543 signatures were submitted and found sufficient.

Support

Arguments in favor

These arguments in support appeared in the official State of Washington Voter Guide:[4]

I-790 is about fairness for 13,000 Washington Police, Fire Fighters and our families. I-790 finally gives our men and women a voice in our own retirement system.

IT’S ONLY FAIR TO GIVE US A VOICE!

Currently Police and Fire Fighters have no say in contribution or benefit decisions, even though we pay half the costs from our paychecks. 46 other states give Police and Fire Fighters representation in governing their retirement systems. Washington does not. Instead, a committee of 16 State Legislators controls the retirement plan. I-790 establishes a new Board of Trustees. Appointed by the Governor, the Board includes Police, Fire Fighters, employers and legislators. All administrative costs for the new Board are paid out of our pension funds, at no public cost.

THE LEGISLATURE STILL HAS THE FINAL SAY!

Under I-790 any recommendations by the new Board increasing contributions or benefits can be denied by the Legislature, giving the Legislature the final say. This protects both taxpayers and pension members.

I-790 PROHIBITS RAIDS ON PENSION FUNDS

In 2000 legislators tried to raid our Police and Fire Fighters retirement fund surpluses for other budget items. I-790 prohibits them from trying it again. Our retirement funds should be used for benefits — not budget bailouts.

NO ADDITIONAL COST TO TAXPAYERS— $0 DOLLAR INCREASE

Some claim I-790 will cost taxpayers. Please, read the Initiative. I-790 does not automatically increase benefits, and all new administrative expenses come from the plan’s fund. The Legislature has the final say on any increases.

I-790 helps us protect our families while we protect yours. Please give us a voice and your yes vote on I-790. Thank you.

Rebuttal of Statement Against

Opponents are fabricating costs for I-790. These are the same politically motivated attacks we have been struggling against for 25 years with these politicians and bureaucrats. We’re only asking for a voice in our retirement. I-790 does not take money from the state; it only keeps the bureaucrats from robbing us of our retirement fund. The new board can’t increase costs to you, the public. Help police and firefighters protect our retirement. Please vote yes.[3]

Supporters

The following individuals signed the argument in support of I-790 in the State of Washington's official voter guide:

  • Kelly Fox, President, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters
  • Bill Hanson, Executive Director, Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs
  • Mike Edwards, Vice President, Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs
  • Robert E. Bush, former President, Medal of Honor Society
  • Larry L. Vognild, former state senator
  • Kathy Reim, President, Washington Pension Reform, Inc.

Opposition

Arguments against

These arguments in opposition appeared in the official State of Washington Voter Guide:[5]

We greatly respect our law enforcement officers and fire fighters and value the work they do. However, this seriously flawed initiative could cost taxpayers $12 billion over the next 25 years, according to the Office of the State Actuary! For 2003-2007 alone, the cost may reach a staggering $1.37 billion. Local governments and the state would have to pay nearly six times the current pension rate — using your tax dollars.

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND FIREFIGHTERS ALREADY CAN RETIRE AT AGE 53

And their pensions are guaranteed for life! I-790 mandates increased pension benefits that can never be reduced — at a significant cost to taxpayers. Do you really want your tax dollars spent to enhance the pensions of a small group of public employees that already can retire at age 53?

I-790 PUTS PUBLIC SAFETY AT RISK AND WILL INCREASE TAXES

Increased pension benefits will eat up dollars that are badly needed for current police and fire services. Every additional dollar spent on pensions doesn’t get spent on vital public services. Elected officials will be forced to make significant cuts in essential services — or raise taxes. And you will pay the bill.

I-790 TAKES CONTROL OF PENSION FUNDS AWAY FROM YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS

The new board created by I-790 will be dominated by police and fire employees — with the authority to enhance their own benefits. No other employee group has that power. To quote directly from the Initiative: “Providing additional benefits to members and beneficiaries is the board’s priority” — not saving taxpayers’ money.

VOTE NO ON I-790 — IT’S A COSTLY GRAB OF TAXPAYER MONEY

Rebuttal of Statement For

They’re not asking for a voice — they’re asking for a blank check! Don’t be fooled into thinking I-790 comes at no cost to taxpayers. The stated purpose is to increase pension benefits — and taxpayers will foot the bill. Police and fire fighters already have good retirement benefits — guaranteed for life — and can retire at age 53. I-790 gives them control over decisions to enrich their own pensions — something no other public employees have. Vote No.[3]

Opponents

The following individuals signed the argument in opposition of I-790 in the State of Washington's official voter guide:

  • Harold Hochstatter, state senator
  • Marc Marchand, contractor
  • Chuck Mosher, President, Association of Washington Cities - Bellevue Councilmember
  • Jim Lewis, Yakima County Commissioner, former state legislator
  • Sandra Swanson

See also

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