Supporters Say Summary of Calif. Pension Proposal Is ‘Misleading’
On Tuesday, supporters of a ballot measure that would require voter approval for any changes to pension benefits, including health insurance, denounced California Attorney General Kamala Harris' (D) title and summary of the proposal, the Sacramento Bee's "The State Worker" reports (White, "The State Worker," Sacramento Bee, 8/11).
Background on Ballot Measure
The measure, proposed by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (D) and former San Diego council member Carl DeMaio (R), would require California to put any proposed pension and retirement benefit changes to a public vote.
Under the proposal, which seeks to cut rising retirement costs, "defined-contribution" plans would become the default retirement program for state and local employees hired after Jan. 1, 2019. Employers would need voter approval to add new workers to "defined-benefit" plans, which currently are common for government employees.
In addition, the plan would prevent:
- Government employers from paying more than 50% of retirement benefits without voter approval; and
- Lawmakers and government agencies from filing lawsuits or pursuing other actions to interfere with voter-approved ballot measures related to state employee compensation or retirement benefits.
Such provisions likely would significantly reduce pension and retiree health costs for state and local agencies. However, unions have lambasted the plan for its potential to undermine collective bargaining and cut public employees' compensation (California Healthline, 7/30).
Details of Title and Summary
According to "The State Worker," the attorney's general office must issue a short name and description of each ballot measure. The summaries are listed on the petitions that proponents use to gather signatures.
On Tuesday, Harris issued a title and summary for the proposal that stated the measure "eliminates constitutional protections" for current workers and could lead to "significant effects -- savings and costs -- on state and local governments" ("The State Worker," Sacramento Bee, 8/11).
Supporters Reject Title and Summary
Proponents of the measure criticized Harris for favoring labor unions, noting that she repeated language used to describe a previous failed attempt to limit taxpayer spending on pensions, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Lin, AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/11).
Supporters of the failed proposal, who mounted a legal challenge against its description, said the wording did not accurately represent the intent of the measure (California Healthline, 1/31/14). However, Sacramento's 3rd District Court of Appeal "dismissed as moot" the case's claim that the language was biased (California Healthline, 12/1/14).
Reed said, "The first sentence is a repeat of the first sentence from the initiative two years ago," adding, "It's inaccurate and misleading."
According to the AP/Bee, Reed and DeMaio plan to conduct a legal review of the title and summary before they start collecting signatures for the proposal (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/11). Still, they said they were "very confident" voters would pass the measure.
Harris' Office Defends Decision
Meanwhile, Kristin Ford, press secretary for Harris, defended the office's description.
Ford said, "We issued a title and summary that is based on independent analyses and gives voters a clear and accurate description of the proposed initiative" ("The State Worker," Sacramento Bee, 8/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.