California voters want government employees to give up some retirement benefits to help ease the state’s financial problems, favoring a cap on pensions and a later age for collecting them, according to a new poll.
Voter support for rolling back benefits available to few outside the public sector comes as Gov. Jerry Brown and Republicans in the Legislature haggle over changes to the pension system as part of state budget negotiations. Such benefits have been a flashpoint of national debate this year, and the poll shows that Californians are among those who perceive public retirement plans to be too costly.
Voters appear ready to embrace changes not just for future hires but also for current employees who have been promised the benefits under contract.
Seventy percent of respondents said they supported a cap on pensions for current and future public employees. Nearly as many, 68%, approved of raising the amount of money government workers should be required to contribute to their retirement. Increasing the age at which government employees may collect pensions was favored by 52%.
Trying to plug a $3.8 million budget gap, the York Suburban School District, in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania, is seeking to raise property taxes by 1.4%.
No way, says Nick Pandelidis, founder of the York Suburban Citizens for Responsible Government, a tea-party offshoot, of the plan that would boost the tax on a median-priced home of $157,685 by $44 a year to $3,225.
“No more property-tax increases!” the 52-year-old orthopedic surgeon implored as the group met recently at a local hospital’s community room. “If you don’t starve the system, you won’t make it change.”
Fresh from victories on the national stage last year, many local tea-party activist groups took their passion for limited government and less spending back to their hometowns, and to showdowns with teacher unions over pay in some cases. Now, amid school-board elections and local budgeting, they are starting to see results–and resistance.
Higher Spending and Lower Scores: From 2000 to 2009, spending per student (in constant dollars) increased from $11,413 to $15,291 – a 34% increase. Meanwhile 11th grade PSSA reading proficiency remained steady at 71% while math fell from 69% to 62%. This means 29% of students are below acceptable reading levels and 38% are not proficient in math! The York Suburban experience mirrors the national trend where increased spending in the public education system has not resulted in improved student outcomes.