Cincinnati rejection of pension initiative foreshadows Arizona pension initiative fight in 2014

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Union-fightEarlier this year I told you about the Virginia-based ballot initiative activist Paul Jacob, and his Liberty Initiative Fund that was behind the City of Tucson public employee pension initiative which failed to qualify for the ballot. As I told you, this right-wing organization was behind a Tea Party group called Cincinnati for Pension Reform, which did qualify this model pension initiative for the ballot in Cincinnati in November. Tucson and Cincinnati confront the same model pension initiative (Prop. 201).

So what happend with the Cincinnati pension initiative? It was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in a crushing defeat. Cincinnati Issue 4: Voters say loud no to pension reform:

Cincinnati voters overwhelmingly rejected Issue 4, a major overhaul
of the city’s troubled pension system, in Tuesday’s election.

The vote was 78 percent against and 22 percent for.

Peter McLinden, Cincinnati-area Regional Director at AFSCME Ohio Council 8,  released this statement:

"Today's
vote will be heard beyond Cincinnati and sends a message for those on
the ideological extremes who think it is ok to impose their agenda on an
entire city. Had this passed, outside money and political extremists
would have cost Cincinnati taxpayers more money, with less services.
…  That said we all are dedicated to working together moving forward
to fix the pension system in a way that is in the best interest of
Cincinnati public employees and taxpayers."

A private group known
as the Cincinnati for Pension Reform Committee gathered enough
signatures last summer to place a charter amendment on the ballot.

The
amendment would have required the city to pay off its $872 million
unfunded liability in the current pension system within 10 years.

If
the payoff couldn’t be achieved under existing budget conditions, the
amendment would have required Cincinnati officials to create new revenue
or find cost savings so the goal could be met.

* * *

The group pushing the charter amendment had three members – Dan
Lillback, Bill Moore and Burr Robinson – and ties to the tea party
movement. It was similar to pension reform efforts that have been tried
by the tea party in other states.

In a rare show of unity, the
Democratic, Republican and independent members of Cincinnati City
Council opposed the amendment. The proposed reforms would actually
worsen the city’s financial situation, they said.

* * *

Raising enough cash to pay off the liability in a decade would
require steep cuts to city services or an increase in taxes, opponents
said. Most tax increases would need voter approval, however, causing a
quandary if the measures were rejected.

Further, city workers
aren’t covered by Social Security. If the benefit for workers isn’t
large enough under the proposed system, the city might lose its Social
Security exemption and be forced to start paying into it, opponents
said.

Why is the defeat of this ballot measure important? Because Cincinnati's rejection of this public employee pension initiative foreshadows the public employee pension initiative fight we are about to have here in Arizona in 2014.

I posted earlier this year, Goldwater Institute declares war on public employees:

BugsNow the Goldwater Institute "Kochtopus"
tentacle wants to extend this fiscally reckless amd irresponsible idea
to to state and local governments in Arizona through a statewide
initiative. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Initiative would tie government spending to pension funding:

A proposed ballot measure would effectively
bar state and local governments from increasing spending across the
board until its employee pension systems are adequately funded.

[The purposefully deceptively named]
Responsible Budgets Act, which was filed with the Arizona Secretary of
State’s Office on Friday, would bar political entities with underfunded pension systems from increasing
spending, except for inflation and population growth
. A provision in the
initiative defines “adequately funded” as 80 percent funded.

[I-02-2014 Responsible Budgets in Support of Proposition __ and Petition Serial # ____, full text of initiative: PDF]

Hold on. This sounds remarkably similar to the Taxpayer Bill of
Rights (TABOR) that the Goldwater Institute has been unsuccesful in
getting through the legislature. In this new iteration, it sets up
public sector employees as the scapegoat for the budget cuts to services
under TABOR, to deflect blame from its right-wing authors.

The initiative would also eliminate pensions
for all future elected officials. It would not affect pensions for
elected officials who are already part of the Elected Officials’
Retirement Plan.

Roy Miller, the chairman of the group that
filed the proposed initiative, said the Responsible Budget Act will
force local governments to address problems with underfunded pension
systems.

“The idea is to get governments to own up to
these obligations or reduce them. That’s the purpose of it,” said
Miller, a businessman and co-founder of the conservative Goldwater
Institute.

But Miller acknowledged that it would
effectively make all other areas of government spending subservient to
public pension systems
. If the state wanted to increase funding for K-12
schools or a city wanted to hire more police officers, it would be
unable to do so unless its pension systems were at least 80 percent
funded.

“You either have to fund them by raising taxes or cutting something else, or you have to reduce benefits,” Miller said.

In other words, the Goldwater Institute's plan is to foster
anti-public sector employee resentment from private sector employees,
who no longer have pensions, and to demonize public sector employees as
the reason for budget cuts under TABOR, or raising your taxes. (No doubt
to be aided and abetted by its ally The Arizona Republic,
which has engaged in demonizing public sector employees for years). It
is a divide and conquer the working class strategy, brought to you by
the shameless whores for the über-rich elite plutocracy.

* * *

Goldwater Institute, of course, will sell this fiscally reckless and
irresponsible idea on the provision eliminating pensions for all future
elected officials, because everybody hates politicians. But if you support this initiative for this reason, you are only cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The Goldwater Institute has declared war on public employees. It's time
that the working men and women of this state get their backs and declare
war on the Goldwater Institute, and all of the many tentacles of the
"Kochtopus" and the "vast right-wing conspiracy" operating in this
state.

The Goldwater Institute will be aided and abetted in its efforts by The Arizona Republic, which is obsessive-compulsive in its coverage and hysterical objections to public employee unions and public employee pensions. Expect to see a GOPropaganda war on public employee pensions waged in the pages of the Republic, building upon the groundwork it has already laid over the past several years to foster
anti-public sector employee resentment from private sector employees with its attacks on public employee pensions. Demonizing public sector employees is something at which the Goldwater Institute and the Republic excel.

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