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Mayors seek statewide vote on measure to allow pension-benefit cuts

October 15, 2013|By Anthony York
  • San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, left, shown at left in 2009 with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is backing a proposed statewide ballot measure to allow reductions in retirement benefits for public employees.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, left, shown at left in 2009 with then-Gov. Arnold… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

A group of Democratic and Republican mayors are hoping to qualify a measure for the November 2014 ballot that could dramatically reduce retirement benefits for current and future public employees.

The measure, filed with the state attorney general’s office Tuesday, would amend the state constitution to allow local governments to limit benefits for current workers. In his support for statewide pension changes passed last year, Gov. Jerry Brown stopped short of targeting pensions of current employees, saying that courts have consistently ruled such curbs are not legal.

There’s still no guarantee the measure will go before voters next year. Pension critics have filed measures with the attorney general before, but the money has never materialized to go ahead with a ballot campaign.

Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, said the measure “breaks the promise of a secure retirement made to millions of Californians, many of whom are ineligible for Social Security and have an average pension of $26,000 per year. It will allow public employers to unilaterally cut the retirement benefits promised to current teachers, firefighters, police officers and school bus drivers -- a promise upheld by the Supreme Court that politicians and hedge fund managers want to change to allow employers to renege on it.” 

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat who pushed a measure approved by San Jose voters to pare back pensions for current employees that is being challenged in court, said curbing pension obligations is necessary to avoid a series of new municipal bankruptcies in the coming years.

“Skyrocketing retirement costs are crowding out funding for essential public services and pushing cities, counties and other government agencies closer to insolvency,” Reed said in a statement. “This initiative gives government leaders the flexibility to solve their pension problems so they can both provide critical services to the public and make sure that our employees and retirees are paid the benefits that they have earned.”


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