Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Will Ohio's public pensions be next?

From John Curry, September 4, 2013
Slash and Burn: The War Against California Pensions 
by Gary Cohn on September 3, 2013 
[Click images to enlarge. View article for links.]
Benjamin Gamboa doesn’t know John Arnold, but they are linked by a shared concern over the fate of public-employee pensions in California. 
“I’m proud to have a pension,” the 30-year-old Gamboa says. “I believe every American should have a pension.” 
The two men live in very different worlds. Gamboa is a research analyst at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. Arnold is a hedge-fund billionaire from Houston, Texas.
There’s another difference between them: Arnold recently had a representative present at a secret “pension summit” held at a Sacramento hotel, where strategies to limit public employee retirement benefits were discussed; Gamboa, a union member, did not – representatives of labor were specifically not invited.
“Pension reform” has become the latest battle cry in a seemingly endless war that has ostensibly been declared against tax-dollar waste, but whose single-minded purpose has been to slash the job protections and benefits enjoyed by California’s working middle class. Pension-cutting advocates have filled airwaves, websites and op-ed pages with stories about employees retiring in early middle age on six-figure pensions. The reality is that the average state and municipal worker retires on about $26,000 a year. 
The Sacramento summit took place May 22 at the Citizen Hotel, a luxury boutique inn two blocks from the state capitol. It was hosted by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based conservative and libertarian public policy group that embraces privatizing government functions and cutting public employee pensions. The foundation’s most prominent trustee is billionaire businessman David Koch, a longtime advocate of reducing public sector retirement benefits. 
The meeting’s agenda – a copy of which was obtained by Frying Pan News — was written in the terse, opaque prose of event planners, but still offers a glimpse into the group’s plans. Among other items, it  lists an hour-long session on “Overcoming Opposition: Anticipating and Addressing Government and Union Opposition.” Perhaps the agenda was even more important for what it did not say: That the attack on public sector pensions may soon be transformed into a state ballot initiative that would change California’s constitution. 
The participants in the closed-door meeting were Republicans and Democrats, and included public officials and representatives of numerous foundations and think tanks intent on reducing pensions for public employees. 
Among those attending were San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed; former San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio; Josh McGee, a vice president at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation; Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility; Dan Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform; Ed Ring, executive director of the California Public Policy Center (CPPC) and editor of; Jack Dean, executive director at the Reason Foundation and editor of, and Steven Greenhut, a journalist and author of the book Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation. 
Their gathering received no media coverage, with the exception of a brief mention in a column Greenhut wrote for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Despite the pension-cutting movement’s talk of the cause’s bipartisan pedigree, it seems to rely upon transfusions of money from wealthy rightwing personalities and nonprofits. Apart from the Reason Foundation’s close ties to David Koch, Greenhut’s own former online hobby, CalWatchdog, is the creation of the Pacific Research Institute, a libertarian think tank with deep pockets. 
Both the Reason Foundation and Pacific Research Institute are allied with the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has been writing corporatist model legislation for about 30 years. More locally, however, the nexus for pension-cutting is the Tustin-headquartered California Public Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit led by Ed Ring, who worked to promote the anti-union Proposition 32 last year. CPPC’s advisors include Marcia Fritz and Jack Dean; its president is Mark W. Bucher who helped qualify and pass 2000’s Proposition 22, which effectively banned same-sex marriage in California. (Bucher is also a board member of Family Action, a rightwing Orange County political action committee.) Another CPPC board member, Robert Loewen, also serves as president of the ultraconservative Lincoln Club of Orange County.) 
The Sacramento meeting apparently helped set the stage for moves that are now occurring largely behind the scenes. 
In an interview, Reed confirmed that he attended the pension summit and that he has been working on a statewide ballot initiative that would allow the state and local governments to reduce retirement benefits for current employees for the years of work they performed after his proposed reforms would go into effect. He says that such statewide reform is necessary for California’s fiscal health, to ensure that the state and local governments can provide a reasonable level of services to the public and to protect public employees. 
“What we need to do statewide is make it possible for local governments to change future accruals for work not performed,” he says. He adds that his proposed ballot measure could be voted on as early as November, 2014. 
Reed, a Democrat who has opposed same-sex marriage and the raising of the minimum wage of his city’s workers, seems to be what pension-cutters have in mind when they speak of their movement’s bipartisan makeup. (The gathering’s other politician, Carl DeMaio, is a Republican — and Reason Foundation senior fellow — who has advocated replacing San Diego city employees’ pensions with a 401(k)-type substitute.) Last year Reed pushed a ballot measure in San Jose to reduce that city’s retirement costs for its public employees. The measure passed, but is now tied up in the courts. He acknowledges that any such measure is likely to provoke an all-out fight with the state’s public-employee unions. Interviews with labor officials and their representatives seem to bear him out. 
A ballot initiative to cut back pensions for existing employees would “change the constitution and would be a horrible thing,” says Steven Maviglio, a publisher of the California Majority Report and a Sacramento-based political consultant whose clients include Californians for Retirement Security, a labor coalition representing 1.5 million public employees and retirees. 
Maviglio says that many employees have worked for years at jobs where they were promised certain benefits and that it would be a breach of faith to “throw out that understanding and break that trust. That’s the whole foundation of pension benefits.” 
He adds, “If someone is teaching for 25 years and somebody changes the rules of the game, that’s hardly fair.” 
Any statewide ballot measure campaign aimed at cutting back public employee benefits would provoke an expensive fight with unions. “It would cost tens of millions of dollars — $30 or $40 million,” Reed says. Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility (whose vice president is the CPPC’s Jack Dean), says that the backers would likely look for funding from the Arnold Foundation, among other sources.
The Arnold Foundation has funded similar efforts in the past. Two years ago, for example, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the Arnold Foundation had given a $150,000 grant to Fritz’s group for a series of reports seeking to limit public employee pensions. Last year, another of the foundation’s checks made headlines when it was revealed that the Arnold Foundation was a major backer of Engage Rhode Island, the group that pushed through that state’s pension overhaul law. 
The Arnold Foundation is clearly in the forefront of nationwide efforts to scale back pensions for state and municipal workers. On its website, the foundation identifies pension reform as one of its key initiatives, and it provides position papers supporting its stances. 
“The current system has allowed politicians to promise one level of benefits without fully funding them,” the Arnold Foundation’s McGee told Frying Pan News in an email last week. “Across the U.S., state and local governments have underfunded workers’ benefits by at least $1 trillion.” 
The Arnold Foundation, McGee wrote, works with state and local communities to provide policy information and technical assistance to help them develop pension reforms. He said that a ballot initiative is just one tool to improve the retirement system, and added that the foundation “does not promote or fund ballot initiatives.” He also acknowledged that he attended the pension summit in Sacramento. 
“We discussed the need to deal responsibly with accumulated pension debt, secure benefits that have already been earned, and create a system that is affordable, sustainable, and secure,” McGee stated. 
Others believe the Arnold Foundation has its eye on California in order to promote public employee pension cutbacks across the nation. The foundation’s thinking, Maviglio says, is that “if liberal California can do it, it can happen anywhere.” 
In many ways, Benjamin Gamboa, the 30-year-old research analyst at Crafton Hills College, is typical of those employees who find themselves in the pension-cutters’ crosshairs. Working at a community college, he believes, is serving the public good by helping students to reach their goals.
“I love what I do, and I love the security of my job,” he says. “My plan is to retire with a pension just large enough to spoil my grandkids.” He says that his hope and expectation will be for a pension of about $30,000 a year. “I want to enjoy the simple things,” he says. “There are no European vacations in my future.” 
 He adds that he is concerned to hear about the continuing efforts to limit his and other workers’ pensions. 
“To attack the work I do and the security I treasure . . .” he says, then pauses. “It’s heart-wrenching. It’s demoralizing.” 
Tags: ALEC • California Expose • Koch Brothers • pension reform 
Gary Cohn is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked for the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer. Reach him with comments or story ideas at

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Educators and retired should know this...

From John Curry, September 3, 2013

But how many of you will bury your head in the sand and claim that politics has nothing to do with
your occupation or former occupation.......or, say you are just "too busy? "

By dianerav

August 18, 2013
ALEC, the extremist group that is funded by major corporations to protect corporate interests, has an amazing number of members in the Ohio legislature. That explains why the Ohio’s legislature keeps passing laws to privatize public schools.
Education is a top priority for ALEC.
ALEC strongly supports charter schools and vouchers.
ALEC loves virtual learning, because it diverts public dollars to pay corporations to enroll home-schooled students. The virtual charters get terrible academic results, but they are profitable and they undermine public education. To ALEC, that constitutes success.
ALEC hates unions, hates tenure, hates teacher certification, wants teachers to be at-will employees whose salary is tied to student test scores. 
Here is a post from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Education and Adequacy Coalition: 
466 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bills introduced in 2013: Legislator “scholarships” may be a factor  
A report by the Center for Media and Democracy identifies 466 ALEC bills introduced in state legislatures across the nation in 2013. 139 of these ALEC bills affect public education. 31 of these education bills became law this year.
Only seven states didn’t have an ALEC education bill introduced this year. To view the report:
ALEC is a champion of charter schools and voucher legislation and thus is geared toward starving the public common school. K-12 Inc., the nation’s largest provider of online charter schools paid its CEO Ron Packard $5 million in total compensation in 2011. Additionally, Packard owns millions of dollars in company shares, not a bad compensation package for a school superintendent. He is on the ALEC Education Task Force.
The Ohio Virtual Academy charter school is operated by K-12, Inc. Ohioans should recognize that tax dollars (deducted from school districts) are being used to support a superintendent’s salary of $5 million plus millions in company shares while many school districts are cutting essential programs and services due to lack of funds.
Money spent on advertising is another issue. This expenditure by for-profit charter schools is not only a slap at public school districts but it shortchanges educational opportunities for charter school kids.
Ohio taxpayers are subsidizing outrageous salaries and benefits of for-profit charter operators, and slick, expensive marketing. On average, charter schools spend twice as much per pupil on administration as traditional school districts.
An August 11, 2013 Columbus Dispatch article states, “About a third of Ohio House Republicans-including Speaker William G. Batchhelder-attended the American Legislative Exchange Council gathering last week at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.” ALEC provides “scholarships” for legislators to attend ALEC sponsored events. The Dispatch article cites a study by Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy that indicates Ohio legislators have walked away with $75,000 in ALEC “scholarships” to attend such events as receptions at professional baseball games, cigar parties and skeet shoots.
During annual ALEC meetings, corporate lobbyists and allied legislators get together to vet legislative proposals. One can bet the farm that the corporate lobbyists are not trying to convince legislators to focus their efforts on improving the public common school system.
Ohio Legislators with ALEC Ties (as of 2011) can be found at 
Below is listing of some of Ohio’s state officials who are members of ALEC:
[For live numerical and text links, click here.] 
House of Representatives
Rep. John P. Adams (R-78)[1], State Chairman[2][3] andTax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member [4]

Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-3),[3] Communications and Technology Task Force Alternate[5]

Rep. Marlene Anielski (R-17), ALEC Education Task Force Member[6] 

Speaker William G. Batchelder (R-69), ALEC member[7] 

Rep. Peter A. Beck (R-67), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force Member[8] 

Rep. Terry R. Boose (R-58), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member [9] 

Rep. George J. Buchy (R-77) [10]

Rep. James Butler (R-37), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member[11] and Communications and Technology Task Force Alternate[12]

Rep. Timothy Derickson (R-53)[1]

Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-19), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member[13]

Rep. Cheryl L. Grossman (R-23), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Alternate[14] 

Rep. Brian Hill (R-94), ALEC Member[15]

Rep. Matt Huffman (R-4), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member[3]

Rep. Ronald Maag (R-35), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member[3][16]

Rep. Kristina D. Roegner (R-42), ALEC Education Task Force Member[17]

Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (R-86), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force Member[18]

Rep. Barbara Sears (R-46)[1], ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member[19]

Rep. Gerald L. Stebelton (R-5)[1], ALEC Education Task Force Member[20]

Rep. Michael Stinziano (D-25), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force Member[21] 

Rep. Louis Terhar (R-30), ALEC Member[22]

Rep. Andrew M. Thompson (R-93), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member[23]

Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R-75), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member[3]

Rep. Ron Young (R-63), ALEC Member 
Sen. David Burke (R-26), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member[24] 

Sen. William P. Coley, II (R-4), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member [25]

Sen. John Eklund (R-18)[26]

Sen. Randy Gardner (R-6) [27]

Sen. Kris Jordan (R-19), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member[28]

Sen. Frank LaRose (R-27), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member [29]

Sen. Bob Peterson (R-17), ALEC Member[30]

Sen. William “Bill” Seitz (R-8), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force[31]Co-Chair, spoke on “Saving Dollars and Protecting Communities: State Successes in Corrections Policy” at the 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[32]

Sen. Joseph W. Uecker (R-14)[1], ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member[33]
Former Representatives
Rep. Louis Blessing (R-29)[3] (replaced by his son, Louis W. Blessing, III, representative-elect) 

Rep. Danny Bubp (R-88)[1] 

Rep. John A. Carey, Jr. (R-87), ALEC Education Task Force Alternate[34] 

Speaker Jo Ann Davidson [35]

Rep. Dale Van Dyke [35]

Rep. Bruce Goodwin (R-74), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member[36] 

Rep. Casey Kozlowski (R-99), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member [29]

Rep. Jarrod B. Martin (R-70), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member[29][1][3]

Former Rep. Robert Mecklenborg (R-30), ALEC Member 

Rep. Craig Newbold (R-1), ALEC Member[37]

Rep. Pat Tiberi [35]

Rep. Todd Snitchler (Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio as of 2011)[1][3]

Rep. Ronald Suster (D) currently Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge. [38]

Rep. Tim Greenwood (R) currently outside counsel OH AG. [39] 
Former Senators
Sen. Robert. C. Cupp (R) currently sits on OH Supreme Court. [40] 

Sen. Grace L. Drake(R)[41]

Sen. Michael A. Fox. (R) was director Butler County Children’s services, currently serving prison term for corruption.[42] 

Sen. Tom Niehaus (R-14), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member[43]

Sen. Lynn Wachtmann [35]
One of the missions of ALEC is to replace the public common school system with private market-driven education thrift stores. Some Ohio legislators will press forward the concept of a voucher for every student. Read the next email from the E & A Coalition.
William Phillis

Ohio E & A
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