LOS ANGELES -- A measure that would allow state and local governments in California to reduce future pension benefits of current employees is one step closer to the November ballot.
Attorney General Kamala Harris released the title and summary this week, a key step in the process, drawing complaints from both supporters and opponents.
The measure's chief proponent—unhappy with the wording in the summary—said he will be consulting with other supporters in the days ahead to decide whether to seek signatures this year or delay the measure until 2016.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said Tuesday that Harris's summary of the measure is incorrect and uses words that are designed to put the initiative in the "worst light."
Harris, charged with writing the title and 100-word summary for all ballot measures, released the summary late Monday.
Reed specifically takes issue with the first sentence in her summary, which says the initiative "eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed."
The San Jose mayor said such statement is incorrect, and that the initiative maintains protections for all accrued retirement benefits, including the benefits accrued as future work is performed.
"It is unfortunate that the attorney general failed to accurately describe what our initiative would do," Reed said in a statement. "Voters deserve to have an accurate description of the initiative free from poll-tested words and phrases that confuse and distort the specific language of the initiative."
Reed is the public face of the Pension Reform Act of 2014, which, if approved by voters, would amend the state constitution to allow state and local government employers to cut future accrual of pension benefits by current employees, while protecting benefits already earned.
Other supporters of the initiative include Democratic mayors Pat Morris of San Bernardino and Bill Kampe of Pacific Grove, and Republican Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim.
Opponents of the measure are also unhappy with Harris's wording, which they say does convey to voters "exactly how their retirement security will be put at risk."
"We are disappointed that the attorney general's title and summary of the Reed measure doesn't speak to the main motivation of its proponents: to slash the retirement benefits and retiree health care of current and future employees," said Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security. "The title should have prominently noted the elimination or cuts to pensions and retiree health care that this measure authorizes. It should also have noted the proposal's provisions to invalidate negotiated contracts."
If Reed decides to push forward with his pension reform initiative, he and other proponents can now begin the signature gathering process.
They must submit at least 807,615 valid signatures at least 131 days before the general election in order to appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.