Orange County voters passed a pension reform measure that takes away politicians’ ability to sweeten public pensions without voter approval.

Three quarters of voters approved Measure J, which required only a simple majority to pass.

The measure, authored by Supervisor John Moorlach, requires the Orange County Employee Retirement System to prepare an actuarial study of the cost of any proposed benefit increases and requires that voters approve any pension increase beyond cost-of-living adjustments.

The measure makes Orange County the third big jurisdiction to take pension purse strings out of lawmakers’ hands. San Francisco’s charter has long included a provision requiring voter approval of pension increases, which is widely credited with keeping the city’s pension fund fully funded, even as local lawmakers sweetened other benefits so much that the city now has a multi-billion other post employment benefit liability.

San Diego passed a similar charter amendment in 2006, after city officials were caught hiding $1 billion of accrued, unfunded pension liabilities from voters.

Orange County has an accrued unfunded pension liability of $2.7 billion, according to its 2007 comprehensive annual financial report. The Republican County Board of Supervisors retroactively increased pension benefits in 2001, but the current board sued earlier this year to recoup the retroactive benefits.

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