SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed announced Friday that he’s abandoning an attempt to place an initiative on the November state ballot that would have enabled governments in California to cut future pension benefits for current workers.
After losing a court fight over the legal description of his initiative, Reed said supporters will now target the 2016 ballot because they didn’t have enough time to collect signatures for this year.
The forms that would have been used to gather signatures said the measure would “eliminate constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree health care benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed.”
While filing the lawsuit, Reed called the description, written by Attorney General Kamala Harris, “inaccurate and misleading” because it did not make it clear the initiative would protect pension benefits already accrued.
The initiative would have allowed city, county and other governments to reduce future benefits through collective bargaining or a local vote.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner rejected Reed’s challenge on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, California’s pension problems are not going away and will only grow larger in the coming years,” Reed said in a news release. “We remain committed to providing elected leaders with the tools they need to negotiate benefit changes and control skyrocketing costs.”
Reed and four other mayors announced the initiative in October. Cities across California are struggling to balance their budgets because of rising pension costs, which have contributed to bankruptcies in Stockton, San Bernardino and Vallejo.
Union leaders say the proposed initiative breaks a promise to public employees and should be dealt with through bargaining, not at the ballot box.
“This decision simply affirms what Mayor Reed and his allies have publicly proclaimed: the real purpose of the mayor’s attack on retirement security is to eliminate the vested pension rights of teachers, firefighters, public safety officers and millions of other hard working Californians,” said Dave Low, chair of Californians for Retirement Security, which represents 1.6 million public employees.
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