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North Bay Business Journal

Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 2:24 pm

Share your thoughts: Public-employee pensions

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    Will the outcomes of the elections in San Jose and San Diego spur further public-employee pension reform?

    • Yes (69%, 29 votes)
    • No (17%, 7 votes)
    • Don't know (14%, 6 votes)

    Total voters: 42
    Polling period: June 13, 2012 @ 5:00 am – June 19, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

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    Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    This NBBJ Pulse Poll runs through June 19. View all polls.

    With public-employee pension costs taking center stage for municipalities across the country, voters in two of California’s biggest cities this month cast ballots overwhelmingly in favor of curbing the benefits of such pensions in a calculated effort to cut local deficits.

    The cities of San Diego and San Jose both passed far-reaching measures to curb pension spending by moving to cut benefits for not just future hires but also existing public employees, suggesting that voter sentiment favors strong reform sought by politicians on both sides of the political aisle, chief among them Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

    North Bay locales are no stranger to the debate. Public officials, business leaders and unions have hotly debated the issue. But some experts viewed the votes of San Diego and San Jose — traditionally a Democratic stronghold — as a sign of things to come for other cities, perhaps even other states grappling with the same issue of unfunded or exceedingly expensive union pensions. San Diego passed a measure curbing pensions by a two-thirds majority, while San Jose’s efforts passed with 70 percent of the vote.

    Unions, for their part, have vowed to fight some — though not all — of the reforms, often saying that it’s not pensions or public employees  that caused the economic downturn. Several have suggested they would fight the measures in court after voters signed off on cost-cutting measures.

    Many of the unions have agreed that the costs, and associated impact on city budgets, is an important matter to confront, but many have also disagreed with the way that costs should be dealt with.

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    Comments

    6 Comments

    1. June 13, 2012, 3:56 pm

      by Rod

      As the events of Wisconsin and other states are currently unfolding, and the inevitability that this is eventually going take place in nearly every state in the union, I would like to say this.

      When discussing unions we need to differentiate and emphasize the difference between private sector unions and government (aka: public) sector unions. The two are fundamentally different in how they operate and whose interest they are looking out for. This separation is non-existent in discussions and conversations involving private and/or government unions, and only until we change the discussion to include this separation (or at the very least debate the need for the separation) will a large and vastly growing portion of our society have a voice in the discussion.

      Private sector unions are forced to negotiate with the employer. The employee and employer need eachother. When a private sector union negotiates with an employer the best interests of the company must be the primary concern. If the employees ask for too much then the business suffers and they lose their jobs. If the employer does not yield enough to the requests/demands of the union then the company’s [highly] skilled and trained workforce walks out. It is this juxtaposition that forces each party to negotiate for MUTUAL SELF INTEREST.

      Government sector unions negotiate with elected officials and here in lies the problem. Government sector unions can simply campaign and lobby for a candidate that will give them what they want. Government sector unions use their massive coffers to the tune of tens of millions of dollars to campaign for a political candidate that will appease the unions at every corner. Where the private sector unions are forced to negotiate with someone who is providing jobs, government sector unions can choose who they negotiate with. This process has become rampant with corruption, graft and thuggery. This process allows the unions and elected officials to negotiate with eachother behind closed doors and leave out or circumvent the interests of the taxpayers whom happen to be the very ones both the politicians and government unions are supposed to be serving. Where private sector unions have to negotiate their wages and benefits and allow the business to remain profitable, government sector unions have found that all they need to do to continue increasing benefits and wages is to increase taxes.

      I wonder how much longer private sector unions are going to tolerate the government and government sector unions negotiating against the interests of the companies who employ the private sector unions and the taxpayers themselves.


    2. June 14, 2012, 8:53 am

      by Judy Adams

      As a public sector union member, now retired, I would like to give one small, but typical scenario of retirement. After working 27 years as a special education para-professional in an elementary school district and participating on our CSEA contract negotiations, we were never handsomely rewarded, nor treated badly. That said, I retired with a net monthly income of $768. That with my social security, of $658 adds up to a total of $1426 in total retirement income. Tell me, how many of you who disparage “run away” pensions would like to live on this amount? A large number of public sector retirees are living with a very tight budget which will only be eroded as the years pass. Let’s talk about the upper eschelon of management which gets the public upset with their large and manipulated retirements. Parenthetically, I am a college graduate with a post grad early childhood education degree.


    3. June 14, 2012, 9:29 am

      by Edmond L. Henry

      The problem with government pensions is the governing body, be it local, state or national. and the promise of a defined benefit, with the entity not funding the pension. Its called an unfunded expense because the entity does not set aside the funds for the defined benefit when it was promised or contracted with the employee. The entity expects the current workers to pay for the retirees benefit. If the agency put the funds aside from the time the worker starts employment and matched with the workers contribution, there would be no deficit. So let’s but the blame in the right place. The government entity promises pensions and medical benefits to get the very best employees they can and then fail to keep up with the funding and expect the current workers to carry the load of retirees living longer and having more pensioners on the roles.


    4. June 14, 2012, 4:25 pm

      by Nancy

      I think the cities will be headed for major problems as this winds its way through the court system. A contract is a contract is a contract and you can’t break a contract just because voters want it. The resulting lawsuits will overwhelm the city. Also, I see big problems in the future getting people to work certain city jobs. Why would anyone want to be a police officer, for example, if they know they’re in a high risk job with relatively low pay and no future benefits.


    5. June 14, 2012, 4:31 pm

      by George

      Also, one more thing. I’m a city worker, although not in CA and have been paying 11% of my income for many years into my pension. If the cities are so willing to dump the employees will the employees be able at that point to cash out of the system? I would say to the pension fund, give me back my quarter million of my OWN money. How willingly will they fork over MY money?


    6. June 14, 2012, 10:42 pm

      by Richard Herman

      “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.” —Thomas Jefferson

      “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.” —James Madison

      “There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the power to endanger the public liberty.” —John Adams

      “The people must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants.” —George Washington


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