State Capitol News
7:29 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Petition May Bring Changes To Pensions For Public Employees

A new petition drive could mean some major changes in pensions for public employees. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.

Republican Party activist Roy Miller said he's worried that what happened in Detroit could happen in Arizona, what with cities burdened by high unfunded pension expenses. So, his initiative would prohibit cities, counties and school districts from raising spending by more than inflation and population growth unless their pensions were adequately funded. That means assets to cover at least 80% of future costs. Only thing is, the state retirement system which covers most public workers was several points below that in June 2012.

Spokesman David Cannella said the numbers are still being drawn up for the just-ended budget year. "We'll have this year's numbers fairly soon", Cannella said. "We closed the books recently, obviously. And now they're doing the calculations. It'll probably be right about there, maybe a little bit lower."

Cannella said the system does not expect to be at 80% until around 2021. Roy Miller's initiative would also eliminate pensions entirely for future elected officials. He said, "I believe that elected officials ought to be policy makers. They ought to not be career positions. People out to go into those positions for a short period of time and then go back to the real world." Miller added, "a big problem is career politicians."

Miller has until July 3rd to get the 172,809 valid signatures on petitions to put the issue on the 2014 ballot.