Nation’s largest pension fund opposes ‘reckless’ ballot measure

Mar 20, 2024

By Brian Hendershot, Cal Cities Advocate Managing Editor

The California Public Employee Retirement System Board today voted 9-0 to oppose the so-called Taxpayer Protection and Accountability Act. The ballot measure would make it harder for voters and their elected officials to raise funding for essential services.

Opponents of the measure have pointed out that it would be harder to provide essential services — roads, schools, public safety, affordable housing, and water — if the measure passes. Carolyn Coleman, Cal Cities Executive Director and CEO, called it “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” in her testimony.

“While it claims to protect taxpayers, it will endanger public services and put the public employee pension system at risk,” Coleman said. “If passed, this measure would upend local government finances overnight, attacking local governments’ ability to provide essential public services and meet their pension obligations to the fund and its beneficiaries.”

With just one member abstaining, the board voted to oppose the measure as it would threaten workers’ retirement and healthcare. Individual members called it reckless, careless, and cynical.

Lisa Middleton, who sits on both the CalPERS and Cal Cities boards, said the initiative could “significantly weaken the financial stability of every city and every county in the state of California.” She further noted that the measure could throw government services in “complete disarray” by redefining “simple, normal fees” and requiring a supermajority for new initiatives.

Other board members also had withering comments. “The Taxpayer Deception Act could pull the rug out from underneath millions of public servants who have worked their whole lives to retire with dignity,” said Fiona Ma, California State Treasurer and CalPERS Board Member.

David Miller, Chair of the CalPERS Investment Committee, said it could “eviscerate funding for schools” and “cripple” education for generations.

Yvonne Walker noted that the measure’s retroactivity clause could invalidate over 100 ballot measures and laws. “Every single Californian will feel the aftershock of this disastrous ballot measure,” she said.

The board noted that members of the California Business Roundtable — the measure’s sponsor — benefit from the pension fund’s investments. This includes Blackstone, Kilroy Realty, Hudson Pacific Properties, PepsiCo, Chevron, and Wells Fargo.

“It’s appalling that the same multibillion-dollar real estate interests seeking to invest CalPERS’ members’ money are trying to defund those members’ pensions,” Board President Theresa Taylor said.