California state auditor Elaine Howle, whose agency works at the behest of state legislative leaders, recently released a report that criticizes San Jose officials for using supposedly misleading pension liability numbers that the auditor believes may have confused voters. Voters didn't seem confused in June, as they voted by 70 percent to 30 percent to approve groundbreaking pension reform that reduces benefits for current employees going forward. The audit, which I discuss in a recent City Journal California article, is a case-study in nitpicking.
The auditor claims that officials in two instances exaggerated the size of the city's pension debt even though she ultimately agrees that officials there are right that pensions are hurting the city's budget. Too bad the auditor didn't examine the claims of the California Public Employees' Retirement system, unions and other advocates for pension increases -- these folks far understated the costs of these increases, yet they get a pass. This is all part of a troubling campaign to basically invalidate pension-reform votes at the local level.