STUMP » Articles » Public Pension and Finance Ballot Initiative Results » 15 November 2016, 05:26

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Public Pension and Finance Ballot Initiative Results  


15 November 2016, 05:26

So let’s get to the exciting elections! Ballot initiatives!

No, not all the propositions on marijuana or minimum wage — I mean the good stuff: public finance and pension-related measures.

The ballot initiative review pre-election.


Dallas voters easily approve reforms for city’s civilian employee pension fund

Voters on Tuesday approved cuts to the city of Dallas’ civilian employee pension fund that officials say will help keep it afloat in coming years.

The cuts, which passed easily, are projected to eliminate about $2.15 billion in pension fund liabilities over the next 30 years and help the city fully pay out the benefits that were promised to civilian workers. These workers don’t contribute or receive Social Security. The city’s Employee Retirement Fund, or ERF, is separate from the troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund, which faces insolvency within 15 years absent major reforms.

“This saves taxpayers a ton of money,” said council member Lee Kleinman. “It extends the viability of the system in the long term.”

Had the measure failed, Kleinman said the fund could face a “catastrophic outcome” of insolvency and an inability to pay the benefits that employees were promised.

The changes that voters approved will only affect new workers hired after Jan. 1, 2017, not current employees. Among the changes: new staffers will have to work until 65 — not 60 — to receive full retirement benefits. Cost-of-living adjustments will be capped at 3 percent, not 5 percent, and allow for different pension benefit calculations. A $125-per-month supplemental health benefit would be eliminated and survivor benefits would be cut.

Let me see if I understand this correctly. If new employees don’t have lower benefits, the current plan participants would be in a catastrophic situation?

And this is supposed to be better than Dallas Police and Fire?

There are a couple of possibilities here: ERF wasn’t really in all that great of a shape; the politicians are exaggerating in order to make the vote go the way they desired.

And take a look:

The ERF calculates that it can cover 80 percent of its liabilities today, which is better than many public pensions, but still just above the threshold for funds considered to be in danger.

Oh yes, this is getting thrown into the 80% bin.

The preliminary count:

Result Count Percentage
Yes 190,093 69.34%
No 84,067 30.66%

Pretty clear result.


Prop 51 on Public School Facility Bonds:

Result Count Percentage
Yes 5,036,038 53.97%
No 4,295,528 46.03%

Well, dang. Get ready for $9 billion in bonds!

In addition, Prop 53, requiring voter approval for bond issues greater than $1 billion, failed

Result Count Percentage
Yes 4,585,119 48.5%
No 4,862,410 51.5%

But as I said in the prior post, this particular proposition is not necessarily good. The issue is that politicians should take responsibility for the bonds being issued, and not try to foist it on the electorate.

Now you may think this is anti-democratic, and it is. We tend to have a representative form of governments, not a pure Athenian democracy. Some of this has to do with efficiency (shudder), but the biggest part is that you need to make the decision-makers responsible. The issue with many of the ballot initiatives is that it gives cover for cowardly politicians who don’t want to take ownership of difficult decisions.


Arkansas Removal of Cap on State-Issued Bonds, Issue 3 (2016): Passed

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s 2016 Ballot Issue Guide summarized opponents’ arguments in six bullet points:2

1. It allows local governments to give away taxpayer money to a private corporation, association, institution or individual.

2. There is no limit on how much state revenue may be pledged to private super projects. Theoretically, the state could approve the use of 100 percent of its general revenues or even more than 100 percent. Just one legislature could ruin the state budget and cause the need for tax increases for years to come.

3. The proposal’s popular name is deceptive and designed to fool uninformed voters.

4. Taking money from one business for the benefit of another business is no different than welfare. It’s a form of income redistribution.

5. This will give you the ability to bankrupt your city. Bad decisions will come back to bite you.

6. The amendment will reopen the door to sending local sales tax money from poor people to pay the salaries of chamber of commerce executives who lobby for policies contrary to the interest of poor people.4

I agree this was a bad idea.

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

But just barely. Over 50% of all voting in the election in general had to approve, not only over 50% on those voting on the amendment. So not voting on this proposition, but voting for President, was equivalent to voting no on the amendment.

50.2% of the voters approved.

San Jose, California, Pension Modification Agreement, Measure F (November 2016): Passed

This undoes a prior ballot measure that had cut pensions, and this vote was to ratify some sort of unwinding of that deal. I will have to come back to San Jose pensions another time.


Pennsylvania Judicial Retirement Age Amendment (2016): Passed

Raised mandatory retirement age to 75 (from current 70)

Oregon Elimination of Mandatory Judicial Retirement Age, Measure 94 (2016): Failed, pretty decisively.

Anyway, not really anything earth-shattering all around. It would have been nice if various bad actors re: public finance got reined in, but it’s not happening via ballot initiative, it seems.

Compilation of Dallas posts

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