California Cities Begin to Dam the Pensions
As the U.S. began the process to stem the spending flood last Tuesday, it seemed that New York and California remained isolated and perhaps determined to drown in its own fiscal flood waters. The titles of articles on the subject are all you really need to know. The Two Left Coasts in the Wall Street Journal, Expect More Population Flight in CalWatchDog and Indebted and Unrepentant in City Journal all detail the business as usual voting patterns in the two clueless states.
As a native New Yorker who has lived in CA for over 27 years, it really hurt to see the citizens of these two formerly great states continuing to do the tax and spend dance as the rest of the nation decided to turn off the music and take care of business.
While states were electing Republican governors at a record clip, NY and CA settled for two traditional tax-and-spend Democrats. While it didn’t help that the Republicans put up two fairly clueless gubernatorial candidates, it would have taken a Herculean effort to defeat Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Brown. Worse, in CA, the people dug themselves into a deeper financial hole by voting the wrong way on a couple of ballot initiatives.
According to Fred Siegel in City Journal, “Californians rejected an ill-drafted proposal to legalize marijuana, but they also adopted two resolutions sure to send their state deeper into the economic swamp. Proposition 23 would have suspended the state’s draconian environmental laws until unemployment, currently at 12.5 percent, comes down to 5 percent. It was defeated, 61 percent to 39 percent. Proposition 25, drafted by one of the state’s premier pressure groups, the California Federation of Teachers, sought to allow the legislature to pass a budget with simple majorities instead of the current two-thirds supermajority, which requires a degree of GOP support.”
However, after a little digging, I managed to find some good news for CA. It seems that various municipalities in CA have taken it upon themselves to fight for pension reform. One of the reasons that CA is in deep trouble is because of the well-documented outrageous pensions that many of our public employees receive. While the state can’t go bankrupt, cities can. Hence, it is up to municipalities to fend off financial ruin.
According to Ed Mendel in Calpensions, “In what may be a first, Bakersfieldvoters bypassed collective bargaining and approved a lower pension formula for new city hires. Vice Mayor Zack Scrivner led the drive for Measure D after several years of impasse with police and firefighter unions.” He also wrote, “Measures that authorize elected officials to give new employees lower pensions, without specifying a formula, were among dual pension measures approved by voters in San Jose and Riverside County.”
In CalWatchDog, Steven Greenhut reports that, “In Redding, ‘voters retained the fiscal conservative majority Tuesday after one of the most polarizing City Council races in recent memory,’ reported the Record Searchlight. ‘Voters strongly supported Measures A and B, non-binding initiatives expressing popular approval for curtailing employee benefits.’”
Greenhut also tells us that, “In Carlsbad, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition G, which requires the public to vote on any increases for pensions for public safety officials. The city recently implemented a lower second-tier pension benefit for new hires. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, ‘San Diego voters gave a stiff rebuke to city leaders Tuesday by roundly rejecting a proposed sales tax increase, setting up a difficult choice for Mayor Jerry Sanders on whether to follow through on his threat of devastating cuts to public safety if Proposition D failed.’ Officials wanted the increase so that they would not have to change the pension system and trim other employee costs to reduce the city’s $70 million deficit.”
On the pension reform front, the only bad news statewide was in San Francisco where voters defeated a ballot reform measure that would have made it mandatory that city employees up their share of pension contributions.
All in all though, people in cities across the state took a big first step in dealing with the “pension tsunami” which will wash the Golden State away if we don’t take steps to fortify our fiscal levees.
About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan,non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.