CalPERS Issues Statement on Public Pension Ballot Initiative

October 17, 2013

Sacramento, CA – The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) issued the following statement in response to a statewide ballot initiative proposal filed today:

“Public employee pensions are deferred compensation, a key part of the compensation of public employees, and a valuable tool for those employers who choose to use them. Public employees work hard during their careers to serve their fellow Californians and virtually all contribute toward their retirement each month. Secure and reliable pensions benefit the California and local economies, aid in recruiting and retaining employees, improve workforce stability and ensure the quality of life for retirees in our communities.

The retirement benefits promised to employees, and guaranteed by the federal and State constitutions, are determined by the employers and the employees, not by CalPERS. The courts have clearly established that California public employees have a vested right to the level of benefits promised to them when they are first employed. This prevents not only a reduction in the benefits that have already been earned, but it also prevents a reduction in the benefits that an employee has been promised for their future service. CalPERS is bound by fiduciary duty to deliver the promised pension benefits according to the U.S. and California Constitutions, statutory law and case law. The California voters placed these protections and duties in our Constitution to ensure that employees’ pensions would be protected by CalPERS as their fiduciary and trustee. CalPERS will continue to support and defend our members’ vested rights, in accordance with the laws of the land and our obligations under the federal and State constitutions.

All Californians deserve a secure retirement. A better solution would be to help those without pensions find ways to save for retirement, not to reduce the pensions of those who already have them. Changes to pension benefit levels should be determined by the employer and the employees, and not at the ballot box. If this initiative were to pass, then all contractual rights in California could be in jeopardy. Fairness and the rule of law are the foundations of a society that honors and respects the promises made by that society to its public servants.”

CalPERS is the largest public pension fund in the U.S., with more than $265 billion in assets. We administer health and retirement benefits on behalf of 3,064 public school, local agency and State employers. Our members number more than 1.6 million in our retirement system and more than 1.3 million in our health plans.