It appears that former State Legislator Roger Niello has decided to abandon his efforts to collect signatures for the controversial “Public Employee Pension Reform Act.” The proposed initiative would have implemented drastic reforms, such as a cap on benefits, limiting changes to pension plans, and equally splitting contributions. In addition, public agencies would have been given complete power to modify pensions, retroactive increases would be terminated, unused leave time would be excluded from pension calculations, and the retirement age for all public workers in the state would be set at 62, among other reforms. So why is Niello deciding to shelve the plan for now? The former Republican Assemblyman has said that a special election on taxes later this year seems unlikely, so he may introduce a new measure for one of the 2012 ballots. Niello stated that “Our urgency is gone. The reason for filing this measure was to have something in line for a November election alongside the measure on taxes, but that appears unlikely to happen now."
In response to the news that Niello’s initiative to rollback public pension benefits will not be moving forward, union leaders couldn’t help but express their pleasure. Take Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, who released the following statement:
“It is appropriate that the flawed Niello initiative to gut retirement security for millions of Californians will end up in the scrapheap of politically-motivated failures instead of on the ballot. It was a poorly drafted attempt to punish middle-class workers and it ignored the fact that workers have agreed to substantial reductions in retirement benefits and have increased their contributions towards pensions from 5 to 10 percent. We continue to believe the way to improve the state's pension system is at the bargaining table, not the ballot box.”
And while unions may be relishing in the shelving of this particular initiative, Capitol Weekly points out that “there remain several initiatives filed with the Secretary of State’s office that could keep these same people up at night. These include measures that would severely limit union elections, ban unions from making political donations, restrict state spending to near current levels, and make it harder for the Legislature to pass bills.” Read the full article here.