While San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed preaches fiscal responsibility as code for statewide pension overhaul, his own city is racking up millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded legal fees as a result of his pension bashing plans that have ended up in court. This week, taxpayers ponied up nearly another $1 million this week to defend Reed’s blatantly unconstitutional Measure B in court, and could be on the hook for a total of $5 million in legal fees.
Yet despite the expensive lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of his pet project at the municipal level, Reed is plowing forward with his plans to push for a statewide pension measure that will lead to more lawsuits for California’s taxpayers. There is no doubt that if Reed’s measure makes it to the ballot it will be tied up for years in the courts — costing state taxpayers tens of millions instead of its intent of saving money.
Instead of racking up the legal fees and dividing the community with his controversial take-no-prisoners approach, Reed and his allies should take a book from the playbook of the 500 jurisdictions that have solved their pension issues at the bargaining table and the legislature. Polling has shown that voters would prefer to see changes to public employee pension benefits at the state level be dealt with through negotiations between employers and employees. Fewer than one in three voters (30%) would like to see such issues addressed through ballot measures like the one that Reed is championing.
Voters know that Reed’s ballot measure is designed to allow the state to slash public employees’ pensions at any time, even if the contract has been in place for years—and they don’t like that idea. California voters overwhelmingly oppose the idea of cutting retirement benefits for current public employees; a 44-percent plurality of voters favor maintaining current government worker pensions.
Perhaps it’s because California voters understand what Mayor Reed does not: earned pension benefits provide retirement security at a time when we are facing an unprecedented retirement crisis in California and across the nation. California voters know that seniors deserve to retire with dignity, and deserve to retire with the pension benefits that they were promised and that they earned.
An expensive ballot measure with long-term consequences for taxpayers and retirees is bad public policy. Mayor Reed should know better.