| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Jan 7 A controversial campaign to
reform California's public pensions faces an uncertain future
after the state attorney general chose what the measure's
backers consider to be unfriendly language for their proposed
Chuck Reed, the mayor of San Jose and the driving force
behind the proposal, told Reuters on Tuesday he will confer with
supporters on whether to press ahead with trying to get the
overhaul before voters later this year, and he might sue over
Attorney General Kamala Harris' wording for the ballot. A
decision should be made by the end of January, Reed said.
"It's inaccurate and that's a bit of a problem," Reed said
of the attorney general's ballot summary, published late on
Monday. The attorney general's office is tasked with writing the
title and summary, limited to 100 words, for state ballot
A Democrat, Reed has raised the ire of California's powerful
public sector unions with his initiative after rallying San Jose
voters to reduce retirement-related spending with changes to
pensions offered by California's third-largest city.
Reed is particularly upset by the ballot summary's first
sentence, which includes examples of politically popular
public-sector workers. It says his measure "Eliminates
constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree
healthcare benefits for current public employees, including
teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work
Reed's statewide measure has garnered national attention as
it would amend California's Constitution to allow changes in the
future pension benefits of current public employees to help
local governments in the most populous U.S. state control rising
Courts have interpreted the Constitution as barring changes
to pensions after a public employee was hired. A county judge
recently ruled invalid a part of San Jose's pension reform
requiring city employees to contribute more to their pensions to
maintain pension benefits.
Pension spending has become a growing concern nationwide
amid lean times for state and local governments, and is a
prominent issue in municipal bankruptcy cases of Detroit and the
California cities of Stockton and San Bernardino.
A top official in the union coalition set to fight Reed also
criticized the description by Harris' office.
"We are disappointed that the Attorney General's title and
summary of the Reed measure doesn't speak to the main motivation
of its proponents: to slash the retirement benefits and retiree
health care of current and future employees," Dave Low, chairman
of Californians for Retirement Security, said in a statement.
Reed's campaign would need to collect 807,615 valid voters'
signatures by June 5 to get the measure before voters. That
would require raising funds to hire signature gatherers and for
a bitter battle unions have vowed against the measure if Reed
His campaign will likely conduct polls of the description of
its measure to gauge voter reaction. Harris, also a Democrat,
came under fire in 2012 for a description of another proposed
ballot measure focused on pension reform. Supporters called
their effort off after polling the description.
Reed said his campaign could file a lawsuit to try to force
Harris' office to rewrite its description.