Now it’s all about the money. With Monday’s release of a state-sanctioned title and summary for his public pension proposal, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed figures he has roughly three weeks to raise the $2 million or so he needs to then launch a petition campaign to qualify the measure for November’s ballot. If he waits longer, the cost of gathering more than 800,000 valid signatures gets more expensive, since the law sets a 150-day deadline from the official summary date to file the completed and signed petitions.
Reed and his cadre of advisers will test the title and summary with focus groups and talk strategy. If they see a path to victory, Reed will approach funders for signature collection cash. The money could come from out-of-state interests and Bay Area entreprenuers and the Silicon Valley tech sector, if history is a guide.
The proposal would amend California’s constitution to allow state and local government employers, under certain circumstances, to reduce employees’ pension and retiree health benefits prospectively. A body of case law, including a recent Contra Costa County court decision, indicates that pension benefits for government workers can’t be downgraded once promised. Reed’s measure would change the law to make vesting a day-to-day proposition: What employees earn would remain protected, but future benefits could be reduced or even eliminated.
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