Court Renders Ventura County Pension Reform Measure Dead on Arrival

A pension reform measure which was set to go before voters in Ventura County was quashed last Monday after a judge ruled it illegal.

The initiative, which would have replaced the current system with a cheaper 401 (k)-type plan for future workers, had received more than enough signatures to be placed on the November ballot. Though a majority of supervisors opposed the initiative, they voted in June to put it before voters as a required by law. But a union group soon sued over the measure.

Monday’s ruling, issued by Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kent Kellegrew, dealt a blow to the measure’s supporters, concluding that counties wishing to withdraw from the County Employee Retirement Law must first petition the Legislature.

“There is nothing within the (law) that provides for withdrawal by an accepting county...” the judge said, adding that any ballot measure would have been unenforceable and thus a waste of public resources.

Plaintiff Ed Lacey of the group Citizens for Retirement Security called the ruling a victory for all who believe in a secure retirement.

David Grau and Dick Thomson of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association, which launched the initiative, issued a statement criticizing the ruling. 

“People have the right to petition their government,” the statement said. “It is appalling to be stripped of this opportunity.”

Nevertheless, backers of the measure have said they do not plan to appeal the decision. Instead, they will focus on statewide efforts.

Ventura County has nearly $1 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Ventura County CEO Mike Powers has said the problem is somewhat mitigated by a shorter amortization period of 15 years, so that the county is actually paying down the liability faster than most. Reform advocates, however, have argued that the current system is simply unsustainable.

Read more about the ruling here


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