Petitioners in Tucson turn in abundant signatures to qualify pension reform initiative for the ballot in the face of an underfunded city retirement fund

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July 2, 2013

By Josh Altic

Local pensions on the ballot

Tuesday morning pension reform advocates turned in 23,364 signatures for their pension reform initiative in Tucson, Arizona. The initiative, referred to by supporters as the Sustainable Retirement Benefits Act, seeks to address problems faced by the city's $940 million retirement fund, which is currently underfunded by 37%.

The next step in the initiative process is the validation of the signatures. Petition organizers expect the 23,364 submitted signatures to yield far more than the 12,730 valid signatures required to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

Supporters argue that the defined benefit plan currently in place in the City of Tucson is not sustainable. They say that in order to make up the 37% shortfall in the current plan without pension reform, the city will either have to hike taxes on city residents or cut city services. Supporters also argue that the defined contribution plan proposed in their initiative will provide a sustainable option for the city similar to many found in the private sector, providing benefits to city employees without putting taxpayers or the city in financial danger.[1] Peter Zimmerman, one of the organizers of the initiative, said: "In our mind, everybody wins on this thing. The employees will still have their pensions and it will save taxpayer money in the long run and we won't have to cut city services if people don't want to raise taxes."[2]

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