By The Happy Wanderer
In 2017, Phoenix District 6 Councilmember Sal DiCiccio sought re-election to the Phoenix City Council. During his campaign, he adopted one of the simplest, yet incredibly effective, slogans we have ever seen: “SAL FOR SOLUTIONS.”
It’s a good thing for Phoenix citizens that Sal is for solutions because the city is in desperate need of a fix when it comes to the issue of its staggering pension debt. It’s currently valued at over $4 billion. In 2018, Phoenix spent nearly $400 million to pay the debt down and this year, it plans to spend $426 million to do so. The city’s financial situation is so dire that the non-profit group Truth in Accounting gave Phoenix’s finances a “D” grade after it analyzed its debt burden.
DiCiccio helped launch a budget initiative aimed at pension reform. Petition gatherers had to submit 20,510 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. Petition signers blew this requirement out of the water and submitted nearly 50,000. Now that it’s qualified, the Responsible Budget Act goes before Phoenix voters during special elections in late August.
This measure is a multi-faceted attack on pension debt. First, it would require that new spending growth be limited to the increase of population plus inflation and that every dollar above that must be used to pay down the city’s unfunded pension obligations. Next, it requires annual assessments of pension debt based on a 10-year average rate of return on investments of pension systems. Finally, it ends pensions for Phoenix City Council members and requires elected officials to pay out of their own pocket for their pensions.
We don’t know if voters will approve the Responsible Budget Act later this summer. Pension reform isn’t a popular topic in Phoenix. In recent years, voters rejected an initiative that would have closed the Phoenix City Employees Retirement System and created a new 401(k) plan for city employees.
Regardless, we appreciate it when our elected officials take the initiative to avert a crisis. That’s exactly what Councilman DiCiccio did here as he even donated excess funds from his campaign to fund petition gatherers. The effort and time that he’s dedicated to this cause demonstrates that Sal really is for solutions.