A group of California Mayors, most of them Democrats, are going on an offensive against the state’s public unions with a new ballot measure, the “Pension Reform Act of 2014.” The measure would give local officials considerably more power to cut the pension benefits of public sector workers going forward, although all benefits earned thus far would be kept intact. The mayors are billing this as one of the few viable solutions to the state’s pension crisis, but public unions are furious and are vowing to fight it just as they did with previous reform efforts. The San Jose Mercury News reports:
Representatives of government labor unions blasted the effort, which Reed has been working on for more than a year, as nothing more than an attempt by conservative and corporate interests to punish public employees for financial woes they blame on Wall Street. They argue the public isn’t supportive of reducing the retirement security of cops, firefighters, teachers and other government workers. […]“After wasting millions on legal fees, all the while knowing that his Measure B was unlawful, Reed now wants to change the Constitution so that he can break promises made to city workers,” said Robert Sapien, president of the San Jose Firefighters union.
Fierce union opposition may doom this measure like it did the last one, but this won’t be the last time a ballot initiative like this pops up. Cities and towns forced to choose between cutting services or making good on pension commitments to retirees don’t have any good choices, but choices still have to be made. The fairest solutions involve sacrifices all around, but public employee unions evidently believe taxpayers should shoulder the burden necessary to keep their pensions intact. Their attitude, more “let them eat cake” than “let’s make a deal,” may bring some short term victories, but it is unlikely to be a winner over the long term, particularly if it creates new enemies in the Democratic Party.[California seal image courtesy of Shutterstock]