Former City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who championed pension reform in San Diego, is taking the issue statewide and teaming up with a former San Jose mayor to do so.
DeMaio, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress on the same platform, is teaming up with Chuck Reed, who, like DeMaio, successfully pushed pension reform through in San Jose when he was mayor. The two is exploring the possibility of placing a pension-reform initiative on the 2016 statewide ballot.
“Without serious pension reform in California, we face a future of cuts to important services and more tax revenues diverted to unsustainable pension payments,” Reed said in a statement.
According to data posted by Controller John Chiang on ByTheNumbers.sco.ca.gov, California’s unfunded pension liability rose to $198 billion in 2013 from $6.3 billion in 2003.
Of the state’s 130 public pension systems, many are unhealthy, Chiang told the Associated Press. In 2013, 17 plans were underfunded at least 40 percent, 45 were funded between 60 to 80 percent and 22 were funded at over 80 percent — the benchmark where a plan is considered solvent, according to the AP.
“It is clear that politicians in Sacramento are not serious about reforming unsustainable pension benefits for government employees, so voters must take the matter into their own hands and impose reform at the ballot box,” DeMaio said in a statement.
DeMaio is no stranger to ballot-box reform. In 2012, he led the effort to pass Proposition B, which is projected to save the city $1 billion over 30 years, though analysts say that saving isn’t a guarantee.
Much of the projected savings from Prop B comes from pensionable pay freezes, which is not guaranteed because public employees’ pay can’t be set via the ballot box under California’s law. It must be negotiated.
DeMaio and Reed said they are working with pension law and financial recovery experts to draft a bipartisan initiative. Reed is a Democrat and DeMaio is a Republican.
They say their initiative will save taxpayers money, end abusive pension payouts and provide for a sustainable retirement benefits, though both did not specify how.