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Pension Reform Proposal May Go to California Voters

Like everyone else from sea to shining sea, voters in the Golden State will be helping select a new president and representatives in Congress in 2016. But they’ll have more than that to consider — the ballot-initiative-prone state also may include a proposal concerning public pensions.

A bipartisan coalition led by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio said recently that it is filing two ballot proposals for possible inclusion on the November 2016 ballot, the Sacramento Bee reports. They are:

* the Government Pension Cap Act of 2016, which provides that employees who first join a public pension system on after Jan. 1, 2019 would be covered by a 401(k)-style retirement plan that would guarantee fixed contributions from employers, not retirement benefits from government agencies; and
* the Voter Empowerment Act of 2016, which would limit the amount public employers could pay for new hires’ retirement benefits to a certain percentage of those employees’ salaries.

The measures would not affect the retirement benefits of current employees. Voters would be able to override the downgraded benefits or the cost caps at the ballot box on the state and local levels.

Having a say on the matter has broad support, according to the Bee, which reports that 70% of California voters polled say the public should be able to vote on some public pension matters.

But the proposals are not without their critics, notes the Bee. There is a union coalition that opposes that pension initiatives. Coalition leader Dave Low argued in a news release that the measures would make it harder for California state and local government offices to hire and keep employees would put a secure retirement for middle class families in jeopardy.

Reed said that his group will decide which proposal to try to get on the ballot after California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) issues titles and summaries for the measures. They must collect the signatures of 585,407 voters to get a proposal on the ballot, according to Bakersfield Now, and will have five months to do so.

While the number of pension-related measures is new, the likelihood of pension policy being on the ballot is not. Earlier this year, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego Council member Cal DeMaio announced that they are working together to lead an effort to get a measure that would reform the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) on the 2016 ballot.