State pension measure less likely to make ballot

by The Associated Press
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California Attorney General Kamala Harris (AP File Photo)

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (AP File Photo)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A measure aimed at controlling public pension costs in California is less likely to make it onto the state’s November ballot after proponents said they would sue to challenge the ballot language.

The language assigned by Attorney General Kamala Harris is inaccurate and unfair, the measure’s backers said on Thursday.

It says the measure would “eliminate constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree health care benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed.”

“That’s just not what it’s about,” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, one of the measure’s chief supporters, told the Sacramento Bee.

Reed said the proposal would give employers facing dire financial trouble a tool to reduce pension benefits if talks over pension costs with employees fail.

He also objected to the inclusion of teachers, police officers and nurses in the language, saying that was intended to prejudice voters, who generally hold those professions in high esteem.

Harris’s communications director, David Beltran, disagreed, saying the attorney general had issued “an accurate title and summary.”

The lawsuit is likely to be filed in Sacramento Superior Court in the next few days, the Bee reported. It would take at least a few weeks to resolve, likely leaving insufficient time to gather signatures to qualify it for the ballot.

Reed said the presidential election in 2016 would then be the next opportunity to put the measure before voters.

Supporters of the measure say it would help address spiraling, multibillion dollar public-pension costs that governments can no longer pay and are reducing money for other services. Opponents, including public employee unions, counter that changes to pensions must be negotiated, not imposed, and Reed has a political agenda in pushing for the change.

Union leaders have also objected to the measure’s language, saying the title — the Pension Reform Act of 2014 — fails to note its authorization of cuts to pensions and health care.

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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