Original post date: October 10, 2013
Article by: Anonymous
5/10/2023 Edits: Some links that were no longer working have been fixed.
Carl DeMaio is one controversial congressional candidate. He served from 2008 to 2012 as city councilman of San Diego, where his ideas for pension reform became popularized, and he is also a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation where he writes about government reform. DeMaio is openly gay as well as a Republican, though he chooses to keep social issues off of his platform. This decision cost him the support of the mostly Democratic gay and lesbian community when he ran for mayor in 2012. Although many politicians and citizens of San Diego supported his pension reform plans, his reluctance to take a stand on social issues may have cost him the race. Nevertheless, his experience reforming municipal pensions is important for understanding the practical realities of pursuing public pension reform at the state and local level, including Florida.
DeMaio’s electoral loss last year has not stopped his political career; DeMaio began fundraising for a campaign for Congress in the 2014 election. His platform consists largely of government reforms to promote accountability, and the most prominent area he would like to reform is public pensions for the city workers of San Diego. He is the founder of The Performance Institute, a “nonpartisan think tank dedicated to improving government through transparency, accountability, and performance.” In fact, his “Pension Reform Initiative” passed in San Diego with an overwhelming majority of votes in June 2012. The reform gives new hires a 401k-style retirement fund, rather than the current defined-benefit pension plans that employees are receiving now.
DeMaio emphasizes the fact that public workers are receiving pensions that far exceed those in the private sector and have astronomical costs to taxpayers due to the paucity of contributions made by employees. The current pension system is unsustainable, and, as the case of San Diego showed, cities cannot afford to continue paying its retired employees as much as it keeps promising them. DeMaio would like to see public pensions more closely resemble those in the private sector, with defined contributions rather than defined benefits, and a pensionable salary amount within the range of a typical taxpayer. This would make the pension system more stable and less dependent on the market, which does not always yield returns as high as the projections.
DeMaio’s market-oriented platform has amassed much support from Republicans; according to a recent poll by ABC10News, 48% of voters in San Diego would choose him over his opponent, Scott Peters, in the race to be elected Representative of the 52nd district in California. (13% of voters were undecided). Now that he has laid down the foundation for a sustainable city pension program, DeMaio is focusing on government accountability and transparency. Perhaps in the next few years DeMaio’s Pension Reform Initiative will be successfully implemented, and San Diego will serve as a model for reforming pension systems nationwide as well as in Florida.