The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

May 22, 2009
Public pension crusader returns with new ballot initiative

He's back.

Paul McCauley, who authored an initiative that would change California's Constitution to allow public employee pension contracts to be renegotiated, has a new measure he's hoping to put before voters.

This one creates new taxes on California residents who get more than $40,000 annually from pension distributions, social security, and the cash value of health care benefits. It could also put a one-time tax on folks living outside California whose pension benefits exceed $50,000 in a year and who earned income in the state before they retired.

The Secretary of State's office this week said in this announcement that McCauley may now begin collecting signatures for the initiative. Meanwhile, the Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance figure if passed, the measure would add $6 billion to $8 billion to state coffers beginning in 2010 from new taxes on pension benefits. However, they figure, "revenues likely would decline over time due to changes in behavior."

We tried to reach McCauley about why he thinks this is a good idea, but he hasn't returned our e-mail and doesn't speak over the phone.

You may recall that this blog reported about The McCauley Pension Reform Act, a measure that would allow state and local governments to redo the terms of existing pension agreements. When we contacted him, McCauley said he expected "a lot of whining from the public employees" over the pension measure plan.

Of course, McCauley thus far has shown zero ability to get anyone to sign anything he gins up, so debate over his ideas for now is purely an academic workout.

The Pension Reform Act remains alive until at least June 22, McCauley's deadline to collect the 694,354 registered voters' signatures to get the measure on the statewide ballot.

This new initiative requires McCauley gather 433,971 signatures to qualify it for the ballot. The deadline: October 15.

McCauley has written several other propositions: The McCauley-Rooker Wealth Tax and Oceans Preservation Act, The McCauley-Rooker Wealth Tax and Oceans Preservation Act - Version 2 and the The McCauley Legislative Reform Act, which would have changed the state constitution to permit legislators who do not receive contributions or accept "privately-funded junkets" to remain in office and serve additional terms without election.

You can say a lot of things about McCauley, but you can't accuse him of being an inside-the-box thinker.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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