The Arizona Republic advocates for wage theft from retirees


ScreenshotDidn’t I tell you the editorial board of the Arizona Republic will have a sad over this ruling? Arizona Supreme Court smacks down Arizona’s lawless legislature, again: “State lawmakers cannot balance the budget by limiting pension benefit increases for retired judges, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Thursday.”

Sure ‘nuf, here is the “editorial board” of the Arizona Republic arguing in favor of wage theft from retirees — keep in mind this is deferred compensation that these employees bargained for in good faith and have earned by performing their end of the bargain. They are entitled to receive payment in exchange for their performance. Reform pensions or lose them:

The Arizona Supreme Court just handed an enormous past-due bill to taxpayers.

The state Legislature’s attempt in 2011 to rein in the costs of poorly performing pension plans is unconstitutional, according to the justices. The Arizona constitution forbids reducing public-pension benefits, which effectively means that no matter how high the costs go, taxpayers simply will have to find a way to pay them.

As a result, the pension board will have to pay out $7.9 million to bring the tab current for beneficiaries of the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan, a part of the state’s worst performing pension trust, the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System.

The ruling also applies to other beneficiaries of the PSPRS whose benefits were temporarily curtailed. That adds another $32.1 million for retroactive raises. The system will set aside $335.6 million to fund cost-of-living adjustments going forward.

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The 5-0 Supreme Court decision may be perfectly rational and predictable — a constitutionally guaranteed promise made must be kept, after all. But it leaves Arizona taxpayers in a position of disturbing vulnerability, one that begs for a constitutional amendment that will allow lawmakers to make the sorts of changes the justices now say they cannot.

A primary advocate for pension-plan reform, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, says he would like to see a referendum on the fall ballot to amend the constitution to allow that sort of legislative action.

The dark, foreboding future hanging over Arizona’s poorly funded public-employee pension plans tells us such changes are necessary.

Let’s be clear. The Arizona Repubic formerly known as the Arizona Republican has a long and sordid history of being anti-union and anti-public employee that goes back many decades.The Arizona Republic has a political agenda to end public employee pensions and unions. It is not a neutral objective news source.

The Arizona Republic’s reporter Craig Harris has done “investigative” reporting into the state pension funds that largely parrots studies from the anti-union and anti-public employee Goldwater institute. The Republic uses this reporting to create a sense of “crisis” on its editorial pages that gives Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature cover to pass pension reform legislation crafted by the “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, and ALEC. This “Kochtopus” legislation is invariably struck down by the Arizona courts as a breach of contractual agreement and in violation of the Arizona Constitution.

This working alliance between the Arizona Republic, the Goldwater Institute, and Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature to end publlic employee pensions and unions is the real scandal here.

What is clear from this editorial is that the Arizona Republic is gearing up its  GOPropaganda machine for two ballot measures that may appear on the ballot this November. I warned you about this back in January. Kavanagh for the kleptocracy of the ‘Kochtopus’!

Last year I posted that the Goldwater Institute declares war on public employees:

Union-fightNow the Goldwater Institute “Kochtopus” Death Star wants to extend this fiscally reckless amd irresponsible idea [Tucson public employee pension initiative] 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]

I am guessing that the Goldwater Institute “Kochtopus” Death Star is also behind this latest bill attacking the state employee pension system as well, sponsored by its waterboy, Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills). Lawmaker seeks to allow cuts in public pensions:

An Arizona lawmaker wants the state constitution amended to allow cuts to public employee pensions and increases in employee contributions if the systems are badly underfunded.

Republican Rep. John Kavanagh introduced a bill [HCR 2001 (.pdf)] that would refer the proposal to the voters. He said in an interview he is targeting automatic cost-of-living increases but acknowledged nothing in his proposal would prevent cuts to existing pensions.

“This doesn’t remove the pensions; this simply says if the money’s not there, the benefits have to be trimmed to make the system healthy. And employees were never promised” cost-of-living increases, Kavanagh said. But “if the world was to flip into a recession, and we went into a depression, surely members don’t think that life will go merrily along in the public pension realm.”

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said Tuesday that there are funding problems with the state’s three major pension systems — a fourth for elected officials and judges was closed to new enrollment last year — but he said there are ways to deal with that without removing constitutional protections that bar diminishing promised payouts.

“Penalizing workers or potential workers who work for a public entity isn’t how you solve the problems,” Campbell said. “I’m not sitting here saying there’s not some problems to be addressed with public pensions and long-term issues, but these are not real solutions; these are political stunts.”

Kavanagh said that under his proposal, payouts from the state’s three major pension plans would have to be trimmed and contributions from employees and employers raised if reasonable accounting practices found cuts were needed.

“These decreases are only triggered when it’s necessary to maintain the health of the system,” he said. “If the system doesn’t need the cuts, you can’t do them.”

Just what would trigger the cuts, however, is only vaguely defined. [But of course.]

The battle lines between the Kleptocracy of the “Kochtopus” and the hard-working men and women of Arizona have been drawn for 2014: