by Dina Martin
Cartoon by Lalo Alvaraz, with permission of Frying Pan News
CTA and a broad coalition of firefighters, police officers and school employees are likely to muster forces against a proposed statewide pension-cutting initiative filed in mid-October by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.
Although there is no guarantee that the “Pension Reform Act of 2014” will be on next year’s ballot, the measure, if passed, would change the state constitution to permit state and local government employers to cut retirement benefits of current and future workers.
“We will be carefully reviewing the proposal to consider policy and legal issues, but we already have major concerns with what appears to be another effort by corporate reformers to eliminate public pensions,” says CTA President Dean E. Vogel. “That is a nonstarter.”
One section of the proposal appears to have a particularly significant impact on the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). The proposal specifies that if a pension system has a shortfall, a “stabilization plan” would be triggered leaving most pension systems unable to plan for solvency without massive costs to employees and employers. In other words, the proposal mandates unrealistic costs that will leave no alternative but to eliminate the pension plan.
“If that’s the case, we will once again join firefighters, police officers and other school employees in a massive campaign to defeat it, as we’ve done previously,” Vogel says.
Voters are not interested in cutting retirement benefits of public employees, according to a recent survey released by pollster David Metz. Polling shows that 63 percent of those surveyed oppose allowing public employers to unilaterally cut retirement benefits for current employees. A majority favor solving pension issues at the local level, through bargaining rather than ballot measures.
At press time, the proposed initiative was under review by the Political Involvement Committee of CTA’s State Council of Education.
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