An election night that began with Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker winning his recall election grew progressively worse for public-sector unions as California voters approved steep pension-cutting measures in two major cities.
Voters in San Diego and San Jose overwhelmingly passed ballot initiatives Tuesday to reduce retirement benefits for city workers by switching from traditional plans to 401(k)-style contribution plans. San Diego voters also approved a second proposition allowing the city to hire non-union labor on construction contracts.
“I think when we finally highlighted to San Diegans that there’s no reason why one class of employees should get better retirement benefits than another class of employees — and it also means we have fewer services because of that — I think the voters made an overwhelming choice,” Mayor Jerry Sanders told KGTV-TV in San Diego.
Political analysts said cash-strapped city and country officials around the country are likely to note the California results with interest.
“What happened in California and Wisconsin will have profound effects in November, with the public-sector unions going into defensive mode,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in Sacramento. “The pension reform issue is clearly something that cuts across party lines.”