Proponents of voter initiatives to curb public pensions in California said Monday they will no longer try to get a measure on the ballot this year.
Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio said they will instead pursue a ballot measure in November 2018, when they expect a more favorable political environment.
They said their decision followed conversations with supporters and key donors.
“Although our polling today shows continued strong public support for pension reform, we believe 2018 will provide an even better environment for substantial reform as rising retirement costs further squeeze their schools and local agencies budgets,” Reed and DeMaio said in a joint statement.
Reed, a Democrat, and DeMaio, a Republican, joined forces last year after leading successful pension ballot measures in their own cities in 2012. They filed two proposals for the November 2016, planning to settle on one after polling.
One proposal would have put employees who first join a public pension system on or after January 2019 into 401(k)-style retirement savings plans that guarantee fixed contributions from employers instead of fixed returns. The second measure would have capped how much employers could pay for new hires’ retirement benefits to a certain percentage of their salary.
It was Reed’s second attempt at a statewide pension proposal. He dropped his 2014 effort after losing a court battle over the measure’s official description.
Reed and DeMaio noted that, by the 2018 campaign, the U.S. Supreme Court will have decided a case involving the California Teachers Association that has potential to shrink union revenues. That decision is expected by the end of June.
Labor unions, who had promised a vigorous fight, welcomed Monday’s announcement.
“We are skeptical that donors will have any confidence in these two failed politicians who have repeatedly bungled efforts to put their poorly-written efforts to gut retirement security for millions of Californians on the ballot,” said Dave Low, chairman of the union-backed Californians for Retirement Security. “They can be assured that any scheme they cook up for 2018 will meet the same fate of their previous efforts because we will fight it with our full arsenal.”