Battle over California pensions may be postponed

Battle over California pensions may be postponed
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, right, gives a high five as he arrives at a campaign party in San Jose in June 2012. His city approved a plan to roll back retirement benefits for public employees, but his statewide effort has hit a legal speed bump. (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

SACRAMENTO — A legal dispute may postpone a campaign battle over public pensions, which was poised to become one of the most high-profile and expensive fights this year.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and his allies are filing a lawsuit saying that the official description of their proposed ballot initiative was innaccurately worded by the state attorney general's office. Such descriptions can be highly contentious because they are sometimes the only information voters receive about far-reaching issues on the ballot.

While the court battle plays out, proponents won't be gathering signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot, meaning Reed may run out of time to put the question to voters in November.

The proposed initiative would grant local governments new flexibility to roll back retirement benefits for current employees. Reed said the attorney general's description was too critical and would prejudice voters against the measure.

"They just fell down on the job of giving us a fair and impartial summary," he said. "That's what voters deserve."

David Beltran, spokesman for Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, defended the description her office released.

"The attorney general has issued an accurate title and summary and we stand by it," he said.

Twitter: @chrismegerian