STUMP » Articles » Election Day Pensions (and Finance): Ballot Initiatives » 8 November 2016, 08:53

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Election Day Pensions (and Finance): Ballot Initiatives  

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8 November 2016, 08:53

While everybody has an eye on the Big Event™, I’ve got my eye on some ballot initiatives today. Ballotpedia is not as helpful as I’d like it, as the major theme this year seems to be marijuana. Given this election season, I can see why that’s the preferred topic.

And since I think we’re all a bit tired, I will put in some Gilbert & Sullivan videos for my own amusement.

DALLAS POLICE AND FIRE

An opinion piece from the Dallas News:

There has been a great deal written about problems with the pension fund that covers Dallas police officers and firefighters. But there is another system called the Dallas Employees Retirement Fund that serves 7,500 workers, 1,000 deferred vested members, and 6,700 retirees. The two funds are very different situations, and it’s important that voters recognize this on Election Day.

The Employees’ Retirement Fund of Dallas, or ERF, is [b]asking voters to proactively take the necessary measures to keep the fund sustainable to provide retirement benefits for our civilian employees[/b]. Many people do not realize that city of Dallas employees do not participate in Social Security, the plan that many private sector employees rely on for retirement.

The ERF is 80 percent funded and is proposing changes on the Nov. 8 ballot that will save Dallas taxpayers $2.15 billion during the next 30 years. [b]This tremendous savings will be realized by changing future benefits, for yet-to-be hired employees[/b]. The benefits earned by existing and former employees will be maintained. And because new and existing employees may also choose to participate in the city’s various voluntary retirement plans, many options are available to attract and retain quality workers for Dallas.

FWIW, if you go to the link, you’ll find that they’re doing a combination of things. Cutting benefits for future employees (so yet-to-be-had cost reduction), but also changing valuation assumptions. Some of those benefit cuts: cutting COLAs from 5% per year to 3% (WHAT), increasing the retirement age from 60 to 65 (really?). Look, those will make for cheaper benefits, but dang, those were generous.

It seems odd to me that all this requires voter approval, but whatever. Most places just have the proper legislative body (town council, state legislature, whatever) pass a law/statute/whatever.

And that’s only one of the plans — the one not in deep doo-doo, that is.

A run down of the ballot initiative is here:

Employees Pension Fund.

Voting “Yes” on Dallas Proposition One would curb benefits received by retired city employees who are hired after January 1, 2017. The proposition would decrease the amount of annual benefits retirees receive, lower cost of living adjustments from five percent to three percent, raise the age of retirement to 65 from 60 and require that employees work for the city for a total of 40 years to receive benefits, the Dallas Morning News reports. Approval of the measure would save an estimated $2.15 billion over the next 30 years. This is the only proposition on the ballot for voters in Dallas and is not related to the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Okay, so that’s the one I know.

I’VE GOT A LITTLE LIST

This is a nice bit, often updated for the times….

CALIFORNIA: TAXES AND BONDS, BONDS AND TAXES

Something noted by David Kersten at Unionwatch:

“Unsustainable” Pension Costs Are The Driving Force Behind Local Tax Increases

It is no secret that there are a record number of local [in California] tax increases on the November 2016 ballot, but the dirty little secret is that the strongest driving force behind these measures is “unsustainable” skyrocketing pension costs.
…..
A review of the measures reveals that the proposed local tax increases are concentrated in the parts of the state that also have the biggest pension problems, based on my research.

…..
If you examine local agency annual budgets, more than 80% of their cost increases are driven by pension costs, and other employee compensation benefits costs, particularly health care.

In the Bay Area alone, there are a record number of measures, despite rapid tax revenue growth of 4-10% over the past several years. The growth in real gross domestic product has averaged just over 4% for the San Francisco—Oakland—Hayward metropolitan areas for 2014 and 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The biggest of these measures is the proposed $3.5 billion bond for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) which is paid for by parcel tax increases on homeowners in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco Counties.

But a close analysis of the measure shows that $1.2 billion of the bond can actually go to pay for labor costs which are driving big budget deficits at BART, along with generous contract extensions approved in 2013 and 2016 that boost salaries by more than 30% for workers that were already the best paid transit workers in the nation.

Ballotpedia seems to focus on state-level ballot initiatives, and when I go to the California ballot initiative page, it’s only giving me the statewide ones.

That said, there are a couple interesting statewide initiatives to look for:

Prop 51: Public School Facility Bonds

The California Public School Facility Bonds Initiative, also known as Proposition 51, will be on the November 8, 2016, ballot in California as an initiated state statute.1

A “yes” vote supports the state issuing $9 billion in bonds to fund improvement and construction of school facilities for K-12 schools and community colleges.

A “no” vote opposes the state issuing $9 billion in new debt to fund the improvement and construction of education facilities.

$9 billion, hmmm? What’s the state of California’s debt?

Wall of Debt…$443 billion

Yeesh. I assume the $126 billion in bond debt they have in that diagram includes school/university bonds.

This article puts the state debt at $175 billion.

This debt clock puts it at $472 billion.

It’s kind of hard to see if all these are accounting for the same debts, but whatever. What’s another $9 billion when your debt is that big?

Proposition 52: Voter Approval Requirement for Revenue Bonds above $2 Billion (2016)

he California Voter Approval Requirement for Revenue Bonds above $2 Billion Initiative, also known as Proposition 53, is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment.12

A “yes” vote supports requiring voter approval before the state could issue more than $2 billion in [b]public infrastructure bonds[/b] that would require an increase in taxes or fees for repayment.

A “no” vote opposes this measure requiring voter approval before the state could issue more than $2 billion in public infrastructure bonds that would require an increase in taxes or fees for repayment.

Supporters of Proposition 53 refer to it as the “No Blank Checks Initiative.”

Meet the man behind this proposition:

Dean Cortopassi makes no apologies for it: He’s angry about government debt. And his anger explains why he was willing to go it alone and bankroll the effort to place Proposition 53 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

A wealthy Central Valley farmer and tomato cannery owner, Cortopassi contends that politicians refuse to either fully disclose or accept the long-term cost of billions of dollars in local and state government borrowing. This proposition would require any revenue bond of $2 billion or more to be approved by California voters.

He’s quick to invoke an adage he says he learned from his Italian immigrant father.

“In English, it translates into ‘arithmetic is not an opinion,’” said Cortopassi, who liked the saying so much he filed a trademark for it earlier this year.

The arithmetic doesn’t add up, Cortopassi argues, when it comes to how billions of dollars in government debt will be paid off. Frustrated by the red ink that flowed from the bankruptcy in his hometown of Stockton and the billions of dollars in cost overruns in the construction of a new section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Cortopassi said he became convinced that there needed to be more public attention on murky government accounting.

…..
Cortopassi, 79, alleges revenue bonds are part of an elaborate co-mingling of funds in which money is “skimmed” for things such as administrative costs. Absent that kind of sleight of hand, he argues, government expenses would be revealed as being much higher.

“What motivates me is that it’s a con game going on against the people of California,” he said.
……
Cortopassi insists that no particular public works project inspired Proposition 53 but admits he thinks two particular proposals should have a statewide vote if they end up relying on big revenue bonds: California’s plans to build a high-speed train system and the sweeping proposal to build twin underground tunnels to transport water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region.

“It’s not about the tunnels, it’s about debt,” he said.

And others are saying it’s about publicly squashing the high-speed train idea. Which he shouldn’t apologize for, either.

That said, if the voters approve both this proposition and Proposition 51, this may make the state politicians even more brash in their grab for cash: you get the compliant electorate to give the imprimatur on bonds, and then it makes the projects harder to kill later.

What do you mean you’re pissed about these higher taxes to pay for the project bonds?

You voted for it!

GILBERT AND SULLIVAN INTERLUDE

PUBLIC FINANCE AND PENSIONS POTPOURRI

A few more to check: Arkansas Removal of Cap on State-Issued Bonds, Issue 3 (2016)

The Arkansas Removal of Cap on State-Issued Bonds Amendment, also known as Issue 3, is on the November 8, 2016 ballot in Arkansas as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.1

A “yes” vote supports this proposal to remove the cap on the amount of bonds the state is allowed to issue to a corporation, association, institution, or individual to help finance economic development projects and services.

A “no” vote opposes this proposal to remove the cap on bonds, keeping the state’s prohibition on bonds that exceed 5 percent of annual state revenue.

Hawaii General Fund Revenues Spent On Pension Liabilities and Bond Repayments, Amendment 2 (2016)

The Hawaii General Fund Revenues Spent On Pension Liabilities and Bond Repayments Amendment, also known as Amendment 2, will be on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Hawaii as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.

A “yes” vote is a vote in favor of adding bond and pension payments as alternative dispositions of excess general fund revenues.

A “no” vote is a vote in favor of keeping only the existing dispositions of general fund revenues.

Constitutional amendments in Hawaii require approval from a majority of all voters casting a vote in the election, which means that filling out a ballot but not voting on Amendment 2 has the same effect as voting “no.”

That’s an interesting twist for Hawaii.

San Jose has another pension-related ballot measure.There is a whole story there, but I will just copy the language for now:

PENSION MODIFICATION: Shall the Charter be amended to adopt an agreement
between the City and police officers, firefighters and City employee bargaining groups
that would, among other things, stop funding retiree healthcare for new employees,
potentially reduce costs of supplemental pension payments, reinstate disability retirement
provisions for injured police officers, firefighters and other City employees, change
criteria for determining actuarial soundness, and continue to require voter approval for
benefit increases?

Its Ballotpedia page is here. (Yes, they do have local initiatives, but they haven’t updated the pension ballot initiative page, and I’m not going to go searching for every one that exists.

WHEN I WAS A LAD

A bit more G&S before you reach for the G&T.

JUDGE RETIREMENT AGES

Pennsylvania Judicial Retirement Age Amendment (2016):

The Pennsylvania Judicial Retirement Age Amendment is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Pennsylvania as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.

A “yes” vote supports changing the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 for Supreme Court justices, judges, and justices of the peace.

A “no” vote opposes this amendment to change the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 for Supreme Court justices, judges, and justices of the peace.

Oregon Elimination of Mandatory Judicial Retirement Age, Measure 94 (2016)

The Oregon Elimination of Mandatory Judicial Retirement Age Amendment, also known as Measure 94, is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Oregon as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.

A “yes” vote supports removing the mandatory retirement age for judges, which is currently 75 years old.

A “no” vote opposes this amendment removing the mandatory retirement age for judges.

I’m not sure about these…. this is definitely not about reducing pension costs. I just wonder how difficult it is to get rid of a judge who starts having cognitive issues.

OH BETTER FAR TO LIVE AND DIE

It’s good to be the Pirate King.

And don’t party (or weep) too hard tonight….

Compilation of Dallas posts


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