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Pension version of Proposition 13 could be on its way
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The party, as they say, is over.

Voters in San Jose and San Diego, by wide majorities, have had enough of the binge drinking at the public trough.

Simply put, as they've seen their own retirement plans devastated by the new economic realities they are in no mood to see essential services slashed to keep certain public employee unions flush when it comes to retirement.

It is actually more than that. The private sector and a small segment of local public employees that never had platinum-plated plans pension plans have had a rude awakening in the past four years.

They have had their pay cut, their hours cut, their health insurance out-of-pocket premiums increase, and their retirement accounts ravaged. They have made painful adjustments by embracing the once quaint notion of living within their means.

That experience has been lost for the most part on public sector union members in big cities as well as those on the state level belonging to bargaining groups that have muscled their way via full-court political presses on legislators to get what they want.

It is clear that not all state workers are scoring big bucks and retirement plans that would make Robin Leach envious, but by and large the 225,098 state employees paid by California taxpayers have it better than the vast majority of those footing the bill whether it is pay, benefits, retirement or combination of the three. State workers have also escaped "right sizing" that has happened in the private sector and local governments as businesses, cities, and school districts had no choice but to adjust expenses to available funding.

It wasn't always that way but it is now.

That is why 70 percent of the San Jose voters backed a measure to cut retirement of new city workers and give existing workers the option of paying 16 percent more for their retirement or have their future pension cut. A similar plan in San Diego garnered 66 percent support.

This is not a Democrat versus Republican thing.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed - the architect of pension reform in the state's third largest city - is a Democrat. The fact one in seven voters in a city where registration heavily favors Democrats also makes it clear this isn't about ideology. It is about reality. Not reigning in runaway pensions will mean deeper and deeper cuts in basic services such as police and fire protection not to mention streets, parks, and other things such as libraries.

Meanwhile, the Democrat-controlled Legislature has yet to act on even one of Gov. Jerry Brown's pension reform recommendations that would have modest impacts in the state's pension problems. Brown - in case union leaders need to be reminded - is not just a Democrat but he's the one that gave California public employees the most generous collective bargaining in the country.

Union leaders might just want to start embracing Brown's measures and more.

It is clear voters are willing to take things into their own hands.

The last time empty promises about reform and crushing fiscal reality galvanized voters across political lines in California was in 1978 when Proposition 13 passed.

No one in Sacramento should be surprised if a pension reform rivaling the 1978 property tax reform measure makes its way to the ballot and is then adopted by fed up voters.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.