Saturday, August 15, 2015

Count the bad ideas in CA pension overhaul proposal: Column by Michael Hiltzik

Along with taxation and immigration, one political issue that never seems to go away is the cost of public employees, especially their pensions. Public retirement plans are consistently blamed for local and state budget woes. Any time a community runs into fiscal trouble, its workers are among the first to be demonized, and often bear the brunt of the remedies. After all, pension obligations are typically among the largest liabilities any government entity must bear, so why not hack away? In California, pension overhaul proposals have become a perennial feature of state and local ballot campaigns. Failed proposals were aimed at the statewide ballot twice in the last four years, and the proponents of the last effort, in 2014, have started the ball rolling for a new measure. Like so many voter initiatives, the "Voter Empowerment Act of 2016" has a few reasonable-sounding nuggets buried within a landscape of bad ideas. Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris gave the measure its formal title and summary last week. So its proponents, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat, and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican, can shortly start collecting signatures to place it on the November 2016 ballot. As one can tell from their name for it, the measure will be pitched merely as a way to give taxpayers a direct vote on the pension plans of their public servants. But there's much more to it than that. The Wall Street Journal described the measure as one that would "end defined-benefit pensions and save taxpayers billions of dollars." The measure would end defined benefit plans for new public employees as of Jan. 1, 2019, unless voters affirmatively continue them. But the second part of the phrase is arguable, as the cost of terminating plans could be high...

Full column at

As we have noted many times, UC is included in this proposed initiative. The only "iffy" element in the initiative is whether the proponents have a sugar daddy or daddies to finance a signature-gathering campaign and then an election campaign, all of which would cost in the tens of millions of dollars. Whether they do or not, being perpetual "bipartisan" proponents will likely guarantee them a good living and a nice retirement.

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