Last month your PORAC Board of Directors met in San Diego to discuss relevant public safety issues and conduct the business of PORAC. Joining us for this meeting was past President Ron Cottingham. It was great to have Ron join us and provide the PORAC Board of Directors with historical perspective relevant to the discussions throughout the meeting.
Later in the meeting the Board of Directors met with California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who provided us with an update on her 21st Century Policing Working Group. She also discussed that the California Department of Justice will be releasing information on police uses of force, which is a legislative mandate. She requested information from PORAC on what our members believe is most relevant in reporting these incidents.
After Attorney General Harris answered several questions from the Board, she left the meeting. Shortly afterward, a motion was made to endorse her candidacy for U.S. Senate. That motion passed overwhelmingly.
Although many of our members may ask why PORAC endorses certain candidates, this endorsement of Attorney General Harris has a lot of history and background that we should all understand. Most notable was her title and summary two years ago on an initiative filed by then San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. Besides applying a methodical approach to analyzing pension initiatives and their effects on public safety, Harris has consistently been accessible and responsive on issues important to PORAC and its members.
Now we have another initiative, filed again by Chuck Reed, who is joined by former San Diego City Council Member Carl DeMaio. Once again, Attorney General Harris (prior to her meeting with the PORAC Board of Directors) issued a title and summary for this proposal based on facts, not rhetoric from has-been politicians. (Remember Measure B from San Jose? Congratulations to San Jose POA for completely eliminating this half-baked local initiative that was implemented while Chuck Reed was Mayor of San Jose).
Highlighted below are a few of the more appalling aspects of the latest Reed initiative, titled the Voter Empowerment Act of 2016:
1) The proposal would override the protections afforded by collective bargaining statutes, including the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), by requiring voter approval of any changes to pensions or benefits.
2) The proposal is not restricted to only future employees; it would allow a local initiative or referendum to determine the compensation and retirement benefits of all government employees.
3) Under the measure, all new employees hired on or after January 1, 2019, would have a 401(k)-style plan. Defined benefit plans would be eliminated.
4) Once new hires moved to a 401(k) plan, they would no longer be part of the defined benefit plan, creating an unfunded liability that could not be fixed. The employer rate for pensions would skyrocket, therefore making increases in salary or other benefits highly unlikely.
5) New employees could not enroll in a defined benefit plan unless approved by voters in that jurisdiction.
6) The proposal would prevent employers from paying more than 50% of total retirement benefit costs without voter approval.
7) Employees would have to pick up half of the cost of unfunded liabilities (currently, PEPRA requires employers and employees to share normal costs down the middle, while employers are responsible for unfunded liabilities).
The Attorney General of California prepared the following title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure:
“Public Employees. Pension and retiree health care benefits. Initiative constitutional amendment. Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree health care benefits for current public employees, including those working in K-12 schools, higher education, hospitals and police protection, for future work performed. Adds initiative/referendum powers to Constitution, for determining public employee compensation and retirement benefits. Bars government employers from enrolling new employees in defined benefit plans, paying more than one-half the cost of new employees’ retirement benefits or enhancing retirement benefits, unless first approved by voters. Limits placement of financial conditions upon government employers, closing defined benefit plans to new employees. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Significant effects — savings and costs — on state and local governments relating to compensation for governmental employees. The magnitude and timing of these effects would depend heavily on future decisions made by voters, governmental employers and the courts.”
Shortly after Attorney General Harris announced the title and summary, we received the following from a press release from Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio: “Costly government pension deals are devastating our public services — and this simple initiative gives voters the ability to stop sweetheart and unsustainable pension deals that politicians concoct behind closed doors with government union bosses. That’s why the politicians and union bosses oppose this initiative — and why they continue to try to mislead the public on what the initiative does. Despite their attempts to mislead, we are very confident the voters will understand the plain English requirements of this measure and overwhelmingly pass it in November 2016.”
Clearly it appears as though this initiative will move forward. Your PORAC Board of Directors urges you to not sign any initiative that would eliminate current or future benefits.