LOS ANGELES — San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and other backers of a California state ballot measure on public pensions said they will file a legal challenge to the wording of the ballot summary published by Attorney General Kamala Harris.
As a result, voters are unlikely to see such a ballot measure this year.
"The ballot summary is just plain wrong," Reed said Thursday in a statement. "It provides an inaccurate description of our initiative and misleads the voters as to what the measure does."
Backers say the Pension Reform Act of 2014 would help state and local governments rein in retirement costs by amending the state constitution to allow government employers to cut future accrual of pension benefits by current employees, while protecting benefits already earned.
Harris, charged with writing the title and 100-word summary for all ballot measures, released the summary earlier this month, drawing criticism from both supporters and opponents.
Reed particularly takes issue with her lead sentence, which states that 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."
"Our initiative simply does not eliminate vested rights for government workers," Reed said. "It protects the benefits that employees accrue as work is performed, while giving government leaders the tools they need to negotiate changes to employees' future unearned benefits once labor contracts expire."
Opponents of the initiative, including Californians for Retirement Security, were also unhappy with the summary's wording, saying it does not convey to voters "exactly how their retirement security will be put at risk."
Reed said he and other supporters of the measure would not begin collecting signatures until the legal challenge is resolved. In order for it to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot, they must submit at least 807,615 valid signatures at least 131 days before the general election.
Given the amount of time it will likely take the courts to resolve the issue, Reed said they may not be able to gather signatures in time.
"While it is unlikely that we will be able to meet the deadline for the November 2014 ballot, we are committed to bringing this initiative before the voters as soon as possible and ensuring that cities, counties and other government agencies have the tools they need to control their skyrocketing retirement costs and protect essential public services," Reed said.