This isn't the most inspiring time in the fight against public sector bloat. Tuesday's decisive defeat of Issue 2 in the Ohio election shows just how difficult unwinding the disproportionate power of public sector unions will be throughout the nation. The outlook is similarly grim here in California, where Jerry Brown's important (though not necessarily sufficient) pension reform proposals have no clear path to becoming law. There is some good news in the Golden State, however. While the capitol may be sclerotic, cities throughout the nation's largest state are getting serious about reforming swollen benefits packages for public workers. Consider a few examples from this week's local elections:
- Voters in the Northern California city of Modesto overwhelmingly approved a (non-binding) measure that would shift public employees from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans.
- The city of Palo Alto -- home to Stanford University and much of Silicon Valley's brain trust -- repealed a binding arbitration law that has contributed to the soaring cost of public employees, following the lead of the Central Coast city of San Luis Obispo, which did the same earlier in the year.
- Even hard-left San Francisco got in on the action, passing the modest Prop C, which requires government workers to up their contributions to their pension funds (the much more forceful Prop D failed at the ballot box).
- It wasn't a part of the elections, but as I noted a few days ago, a ballot initiative to move the city of San Diego from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans qualified for the June ballot earlier this week.