Out-of-state right-wing organization behind public employee pension initiative in Tucson

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Back in March of this year, the City of Phoenix referred two ballot measures to the city election ballot pertaining to the City of Phoenix Employee Retirement System (COPERS). City of Phoenix Pension Reform, Propositions 201 and 202 – Ballotpedia:

Two City of Phoenix Pension Reform Questions, Propositions 201 and 202, were on the March 12, 2013 ballot for voters in the City of Phoenix in Maricopa County, Arizona. Both propositions were overwhelmingly approved.

Proposition 201 amended the Phoenix City Charter to make five changes in the City of Phoenix Employee Retirement System (COPERS). The most important of these changes requires any member of the Plan to contribute half of the funds for his or her retirement and establish that retirement eligibility occurs when the sum of the employee's age and years of service equals 87 instead of 80, which was the rule before Proposition 201 was enacted. Proposition 201 left intact the previous retirement eligibility rules of 60 years of age with 10 years of service and 62 years of age with 5 years of service. Proposition 201 also established certain multiplier benefits to increase over time instead of decrease in order to encourage later retirement.

Proposition 202 puts in place what is known as a "prudent investor rule". It also ensures that the city's Retirement Plan remains tax-exempt and makes the amended plan compatible with all applicable federal tax laws.

Proposition 201 applies only to those employees hired on or after July 1, 2013. The provisions do not apply to any employees who were hired by the city prior to July 1, 2013, nor do the provisions apply to any now-retired former city employees. Police and fire employees, and elected officials, are exempt from the changes in Propositions 201 and 202.

With the enactment of Proposition 201, the city's contribution to COPERS is expected to decrease by 51%, yielding an approximate cumulative savings of $596 million by year 2037, while the highest employee contribution rate is estimated to be 13.6 percent of salary.

Propositions 201 and 202 were referred to the March 12, 2013 ballot on
October 31, 2012 through a unanimous (9-0) vote of the Phoenix City
Council.

The City of Tucson Mayor and Council have been studying the City of Tucson's employee retirement system, which is underfunded by the City of Tucson. In April, the City Council voted to create a task force to look for ways to cut pension costs. Tucson City Council looking to cut public-safety pensions costs. The task force has not yet reported on a course of action to deal with the pension costs. The City of Tucson Council should be allowed to make a reasoned decision based upon the task force recommendations and refer a measure to the ballot, if necessary, just as the City of Phoenix did.

But now some out-of-state right-wing organization wants to force the issue and interfere in Tucson's budget process with an initiative that would affect the pensions of new hire employees (the Arizona Constitution and case law precedents prevent the City of Tucson from changing the contractual obligations of the pension for any current employees or retirees).

The Tucson Weekly reports New
Initative Would Scrap Tucson's Pension Program
:

[A] new group has filed paperwork to run an initiative to phase
out the city’s current pension program for most employees.

The Committee for Sustainable Retirement has to collect
roughly 12,720 valid signatures from Tucson voters by July 5 in order
to land a spot on the November ballot.

Pete Zimmerman of Zimmerman and Associates is coordinating
the paid signature drive and anticipates that the committee can get
gather enough signatures in the next month to qualify for the ballot.

The measure would not affect current employees and current
retirees, nor would it affect cops and firefighters because their
pension program is part of a state program, Zimmerman said
.

But future employees would not be eligible for the [defined benefit] pension
program
; instead, they'd have the option of enrolling in a
401K-style plan [defined contribution], according to Zimmerman.

"In our mind, everybody wins on this thing," Zimmerman
says. "The employees will still have their pensions and it will
save taxpayer money in the long run and we won't have to cut city
services if people don't want to raise taxes."

The effort is being funded by The Liberty Initiative Fund, according to Zimmerman.

California Watch had this
tidbit about the Liberty Initiative Fund
last year:

The biggest anti-Prop. 28 contribution came from the
Liberty Initiative Fund, a new Virginia-based advocacy organization
started by longtime ballot initiative activist Paul Jacob. Jacob
doesn't like Mitt Romney much better than Barack Obama and wrote of
former President George W. Bush's policies: "Too few of us
dubbed it 'socialism' back then."

Jacob said Prop. 28 proponents are "masquerading"
as term limit supporters when, in reality, they're trying to weaken
them.

"This is a very serious scam being played on the
people of California, and we want to do everything we can to alert
folks," Jacob said. "If the word gets out, the people will
overwhelmingly defeat Prop 28."

The Liberty Initiative Fund started this year "to
put measures on the ballot that will expand and protect individual
freedom, economic freedom, and that will hold government
accountable," Jacob said. It is working on initiative efforts in
Colorado, Washington, Arkansas, North Dakota, Montana, Arizona and
Nevada. Jacob declined to identify the organization's donors.

"We’re relatively a pretty small player, but we
think that’s going to change, and change rapidly," Jacob said.

More on the Liberty Initiative Fund’s Paul Jacob here. [Paul Jacob writes a weekly column for Townhall.com, and was the term limits movement’s leading voice, running U.S. Term Limits, the nation’s largest term limits group.]

Here's a copy of the initiative: 2013-I004.pdf

Tucson does not need some out-of-state right-wing organization interfering in the city budget process. Moreover, this initiative would do nothing to impact the employee pensions that are actually driving pension costs. Tucson police and fire pension costs are expected to jump 20 percent next year, and those pensions are controlled by the state. Current employees and retirees are exempt. So what is the purpose of this initiative?

It is to provide the "I hate public employees" and their pensions meme of the conservative media entertainment complex to sow resentment between private sector and public sector employees. it is for the purpose of dividing the working class in our city election. The right-wing is laying the groundwork for a negative anti-public employee campaign this fall. You should reject this effort.

Tell the Committee for Sustainable Retirement to "get outta town!"

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