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Pension initiative enters circulation

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 at 3:33 pm in ballot measures, pension reform.

UPDATE ON WEDNESDAY MORNING: Former Assemblyman Roger Niello now says he won’t pursue the signatures for his public employee pension rollback initiative, which prompted this response from a state union coalition:

“It is appropriate that the flawed Niello initiative to gut retirement security for millions of Californians will end up in the scrapheap of politically-motivated failures instead of on the ballot. It was a poorly drafted attempt to punish middle-class workers and it ignored the fact that workers have agreed to substantial reductions in retirement benefits and have increased their contributions towards pensions from 5 to 10 percent. We continue to believe the way to improve the state’s pension system is at the bargaining table, not the ballot box.”

Former Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello of Sacramento is clear for signature take-off on his controversial public employee pension reform initiative.

The Secretary of State officially announced today that he may begin collecting the required 807,615 signatures of California voters in order to qualify the measure for the statewide ballot.

The constitutional amendment strips public employee unions of their right to negotiate their pensions in collective bargaining, sets the retirement age at 62 and caps benefits at 60 percent of an employee’s highest average base wage over three years. It also requires that workers match the public contribution to their premiums.

Polls indicate that public sentiment is with Niello but can he raise the tens of thousands of dollars it will cost to obtain the signatures? And more important, can he financially withstand the labor barrage that will come his way if he does it?

Read on for the news release from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Pension Initiative Enters Circulation

Modifies Public Employee Pension Benefits.

Eliminates Authority to Set Public Employee Retirement Benefits by

Contract or Collective Bargaining.  Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

SACRAMENTO – Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced that the proponent of a new initiative may begin collecting petition signatures for his measure.

The Attorney General prepares the legal title and summary that is required to appear on initiative petitions.  When the official language is complete, the Attorney General forwards it to the proponent and to the Secretary of State.  The Secretary of State then provides calendar deadlines to the proponent and to county elections officials, and the initiative may be circulated for signatures.  The Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure is as follows:

MODIFIES PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSION BENEFITS. ELIMINATES AUTHORITY TO SET PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT BENEFITS BY CONTRACT OR COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Sets retirement age at 62 for persons who are or will be public employees. Limits pensions to 60 percent of employee’s highest average base wage for three consecutive years. Requires employees match public agency pension contribution. Mandates public employees work fulltime for five consecutive years to receive pension. Provides public agency full discretion to modify pensions, and prevents pension changes through contract or collective bargaining. Retains current pension benefits for legislators and public employees retiring before initiative is effective. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Major reductions in state and local defined benefit pension contributions — potentially totaling billions of dollars per year (as measured in today’s dollars) — over the long run. These reductions would be offset to an unknown extent by increases in other compensation costs for some public employees, depending on labor market conditions and future decisions made by governmental entities. (11-0007.)

The Secretary of State’s tracking number for this measure is 1484 and the Attorney General’s tracking number is 11-0007.

The proponent for this measure, Roger Niello, must collect signatures of 807,615 registered voters – the number equal to eight percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election – in order to qualify it for the ballot.  The proponent has 150 days to circulate petitions for this measure, meaning the signatures must be collected by October 20, 2011.

The initiative proponent can be reached at (916) 442-7757.

To sign up for regular ballot measure updates via email, RSS feed or Twitter, go to www.sos.ca.gov/multimedia.

To view this and other Secretary of State press releases, go to www.sos.ca.gov/admin/news-releases.htm

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  • Common Tater

    Who are they kidding? When this measure passes by a large majority, some activist lib judge will call it unconstitutional.

    Game over, man!

  • Waynito

    When they have morphed this country into a cruel ghost of its former self, privatized the public schools, killed any thought of rational health care, reintroduced and glorified idiocy, homophobia, sexism, hate, racism, greed, antisemitism, state religion, and all the other antediluvian insanity that I can think of, and reduced the populace to peasants I will have moved to another country where my hard work, dedication, intelligence, and independent thought is valued.

  • Common Tater

    Why wait, Waynito?

  • lars54

    I doubt such an initiative could pass. The number of unionized public employees in our state is substantial – you’ve got tons of workers up and down state who would be negatively impacted by this initiative if passed. Thus you could expect like 95% turnout with these voters, all voting thumbs down, they would be huge chunk of vote totals. The rest of voters would probably split on proposal, so this thing would go down in flames, I’m sure. I recall when Arnold tried to make it more difficult for teachers to get tenure the unions – led by teachers unions – galvinized into action. Labor – when they are threatened – really can come alive, let me tell you. In particular, the nurses union, boy are they a junk yard dog when they get mad, mess with them and they will destory you, just ask Meg Whitman, or Arnold. One thing I recall is Arnold’s popularity – which was high then – never quite recovered from his lame effort to make it more difficult for teachers. He started getting bad press from that day onward, reams of it, and he never recovered. California is a liberal, union friendly state, with liberal union friendly newspapers.

  • John

    Does the initiative include Calif politician’s pensions which make all other pale in comparison? Go where the money is.

  • Josh Richman

    All moot: Niello now says he’ll not pursue petition signatures for this ballot measure, though he might try again with a modified measure in the future.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    What? And I was really looking forward to covering that campaign, too.

  • Pingback: A cannon aimed at the gravy train

  • Publius

    It shouldn’t take a constitutional amendment for our politicians to correct the pension theft, that plagues our state. The only reason a person like Niello would embark on this task is to force the politicians to act. Our elected officials have failed, which means we have failed. Rest assured that Gerry and the Dems will do nothing to correct the problem. The Public Pension Boondoggle rolls on unchecked.

  • Elwood

    Re: #2

    Don’t let the door etc.

  • Michael J. Davis

    A defined pension plan is part of the salary package that public employees are paid. Public employees cannot receive stock options, stock bonuses or other perks of employment that are available to employees in the private sector. The issue of public pension plans is rarely mentioned when the economy is strong. The discussion centers on why someone would work for a government agency when they can do much better in private industry. Now that the economy has soured, the people who wouldn’t even entertain the idea of working for a government agency want to reduce or destroy the pension system that the public employees supported with their contributions. The issue will fade to the back burner when the economy recovers. That should begin to happen when we get strong leadership in the White House in January 2013.