Politics & Government

The Buzz: Consultant’s memo outlines pluses, minuses for union coalition on pension measure

Unions get game plan to fight a pension measure

A new memo Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group prepared for labor unions lays out tactics to fight a proposed public pension ballot measure that could go to California voters next November.

It suggests, for example, that the unions portray San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s measure as “eliminating” public employee pensions. “Note that ‘eliminating’ fosters a visceral negative response from voters,” it says.

“That is consistent with their messages so far,” Reed countered, adding the unions “have to mischaracterize what we’re doing … We’re not proposing to eliminate public pensions.” The unions oppose Reed’s proposal that would give state and local governments authority to prospectively reduce pensions for current employees.

The memo warns “there is a strong current of potential personal resentment towards the pension system – 59 percent of voters think that public employees will get better retirement benefits than themselves.” But it notes that the unions’ “base of support is broader than Reed’s, you start ahead, and the public does NOT seem to fundamentally want drastic pension reform – but this will still be a hard fought battle.”

– Jon Ortiz


Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday that he’s crafting a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would give the governor the authority to fill legislative vacancies. Steinberg said the current session’s “innumerable special elections” have cost a lot of money and left some voters without Senate or Assembly representation for months at a time. Steinberg said his bill likely would require that a governor’s nominee to fill a vacancy be confirmed by the house where the vacancy exists.

– Jim Miller