Sign up today and save up to 83% on a Hartford Courant digital subscription
CT Now

California public employee pension reform: The war begins

Let the California public employee pension war of 2014 begin.

On Monday, state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris released the ballot title and summary for San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s pension initiative, which would allow government agencies to negotiate changes to current employees’ future retirement benefits. He’s now free to poll on the language and begin collecting the signatures needed to put in on the ballot.

Advocates on both sides of the pension debate have been waiting for Harris’ title and summary because those 100 or so words can make or break an initiative. They may be the only information voters have when they ink their ballots. Harris, like attorney generals before her, has been accused of writing ballot language to suit her politics instead of producing an evenhanded title and summary not “likely to create prejudice.” Last month, The Times’ editorial board urged Harris to draft a spin-free summary.

Harris did a fair job. The title is straightforward: Public employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare Benefits. Her ballot language is unlikely to bias voters in any major way. The title and summary are boring and wonky, but that’s the nature of pension and government finance discussions.

Harris seems to have annoyed everyone. Both sides put out statements criticizing the summary. Reed says the overview misstates what the initiative would do, and he refers to “poll-tested words.” That may be a reference to Harris’ description of public employees as “teachers, nurses, and peace officers” — jobs that are consistently ranked among the most respected professions and don’t carry the same kind of negative baggage that other public jobs, such as parking enforcement, do.

David Low with Californians for Retirement Security, which works with organized labor, wrote that the “title should have prominently noted the elimination or cuts to pensions and retiree healthcare that this measure authorizes.”


Non-GMO Cheerios are just what the customer ordered

A millennial's Rolling Stone rant offers up some tired old 'solutions'

Baca's departure doesn't end need for Sheriff's Department overhaul

Follow Kerry Cavanaugh on Twitter @kerrycavan and Google+

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
Related Content
  • New session offers lawmakers a chance to set a meaningful agenda

    New session offers lawmakers a chance to set a meaningful agenda

    California's two-year legislative session began Monday as incumbent and new members of the Assembly and state Senate took their oaths. But it seemed as if the Legislature was already off and running before Thanksgiving, because some lawmakers announced their first bills even before they were seated....

  • Time for California lawmakers to repeal cap on school reserves

    Time for California lawmakers to repeal cap on school reserves

    Hundreds of California school districts, from liberal-leaning Berkeley to the conservative Central Valley, joined the California State PTA, county education officials, education groups and civil rights advocates to support Assembly Bill 1048. The bill would repeal a widely reviled cap on how much...

  • The California budget's shrinking surplus

    The California budget's shrinking surplus

    Only Gov. Jerry Brown can make so much money seem like so little. His revised $169-billion budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1 estimates that state revenues will be nearly $7 billion higher than he had predicted in January. Once the state sets aside the required amounts for public...

  • Pass the vaccination bill

    Pass the vaccination bill

    The vaccination debate has reached fever pitch. Legislation has passed in the state Senate that would do away with the "personal belief exemption" that allows parents in California to refuse to vaccinate their children. As it moves to the Assembly, opponents are ratcheting up their rhetoric, calling...

  • California needs a right-to-die law

    California needs a right-to-die law

    Much-needed and long-overdue legislation that would allow terminally ill Californians to end their lives peacefully and painlessly got off to a promising start earlier this year, passing two Senate committees and winning approval on the Senate floor. The California Medical Assn., previously a formidable...

  • Revamping California's tax code

    Revamping California's tax code

    The California tax code is like a handyman's rickety stepladder, as untrustworthy as it is essential. It's also proving to be hard to fix. Two blue-ribbon commissions have proposed sweeping reforms to shore up the tax code's weaknesses in recent years, only to get lost amid the Legislature's struggle...

  • A small victory for open records

    A small victory for open records

    Who was former Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) taking meetings with in the days leading up to the federal indictment on corruption and gunrunning charges? We may soon know.

  • De León's bad idea: an overnight 'security service' for state Senate

    When he took over the leadership of the state Senate last year, Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) faced the herculean task of restoring the public’s faith in that scandal-plagued body and its wayward members. The preceding months had been characterized by a series of embarrassing episodes — and worse...