The Truth Behind the Public Pension Ballot Measure

Yesterday, my fellow proponents and I announced that we will be filing a legal challenge to correct the inaccurate and misleading ballot summary that the Office of Attorney General Kamala Harris issued for our statewide pension reform initiative.

The ballot summary is just plain wrong. It provides an inaccurate description of our initiative and misleads the voters as to what the measure does. The Attorney General’s Office has failed to meet its legal duty to give voters a ‘true and impartial’ summary of our initiative.

In particular, the lead sentence in the ballot summary incorrectly states that the initiative eliminates constitutional protections for employee pension and retiree healthcare benefits.

Our initiative does not eliminate vested rights for government workers. It protects the benefits that employees accrue as work is performed, while giving government leaders the tools they need to negotiate changes to employees’ future unearned benefits once labor contracts expire.

In addition, some of the language appears to have been lifted from a memo that a Washington-based polling firm, Garin-Hart-Young Research Group, wrote to its public employee union clients opposing the measure. This memo urged use of the word “eliminate” because it creates a negative impression of the initiative in the minds of the voters.  Furthermore, the ballot summary singles out a few specific public occupations that are held in high regard by voters, and which editorial boards across the state felt would unduly prejudice the voters.

The people of California deserve better. The only recourse for correcting an inaccurate ballot summary is through the courts, and consequently, we have no choice but to file suit.

Unfortunately, the amount of time it will likely take for the courts to resolve the issue will make it extremely difficult to gather the required number of signatures in time for the November 2014 election. Nontheless, we are committed to bringing this initiative before the voters as soon as possible and ensuring that cities, counties and other government agencies have the tools they need to control their skyrocketing retirement costs and protect essential public services.

(Chuck Reed is the Mayor of San Jose. Originally published on Fox and Hounds.)