by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Tim Reid reports for Reuters on the potential impact of this week’s elections on efforts to reform public pension systems across the United States.
Union-backed defenders of public pensions and their opponents expect their battle to expand to more states next year in the fight over U.S. entitlements after Tuesday’s mid-term elections.
Despite defeat for a hotly contested ballot measure that sought to end traditional public pensions in Phoenix, a fight which drew millions of dollars in outside money, Republican gains in some state houses and governors’ mansions mean the battle over public pensions will likely intensify.
Defenders of public pensions say they will be particularly focused on Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where they expect moves to reform pensions will gain steam after Republican gains on Tuesday.
“This fight is not going away,” said Jordan Marks of the National Public Pension Coalition, a national union-funded group that seeks to protect public pensions. “There are a number of states, including Colorado and Nevada. We are looking at next year.”
Paul Jacob, a libertarian whose Virginia-based Liberty Initiative Fund gave $15,000 to the Phoenix measure and who has given over $200,000 to efforts in Tucson and Cincinnati to reform pensions, agreed.
“The cost of public pensions is a serious problem across the country. We are going to see these fights again and again. This is a policy battle between folks who want to be fiscally responsible and unions who want to get what they can.”
Reformers, such as Jacob, believe the pensions promised to many public workers have not been properly funded and pensions are crippling budgets. Union defenders say most workers receive small pensions and are being unfairly blamed.
Regular readers in this forum might remember that public pension funding issues have been causing concern among fiscal watchdogs for years.