Detroit Voters Pass Pension Cuts By A Landslide

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The long-awaited news has finally come: Detroit’s pension holders have approved a ballot measure that cuts their pension benefits as part of the city’s bankruptcy plan. There was much speculation about whether the measure would pass. In the end, though, it wasn’t even close. The Wall Street Journal had the final tally:

The official count, filed late Monday night, showed 82% of those eligible for a police or fire pension who voted supported the plan. Roughly 73% of other retirees and employees with pension benefits who voted favored the plan. Voting lasted through early July.
The voting margins from pension holders were seen as an endorsement for the city’s plan to confront an estimated $18 billion in long-term obligations.
“The voting shows strong support for the City’s plan to adjust its debts and for the investment necessary to provide essential services and put Detroit on secure financial footing,” Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said.
Despite the critical nature of the vote, a sizable chunk of those eligible sat out. About 59% of police and firefighter pension holders and 42% of other pension holders cast ballots, according to the city’s legal filing.

Need a recap of what exactly the “yes” vote means? Here’s an explanation from Click On Detroit:

General retirees would get a 4.5 percent pension cut and lose annual inflation adjustments. Retired police officers and firefighters would lose a portion of their annual cost-of-living raise.
Ballot approval of the pension changes triggers an extraordinary $816 million bailout from the state of Michigan, foundations and the Detroit Institute of Arts. The money would prevent the sale of city-owned art and avoid deeper pension cuts. The judge, however, still must agree.

That last line is key: the city’s bankruptcy judge still has to OK the plan. But it was always assumed that if voters passed it, the judge would too.

To read the official declaration released by the bankruptcy court, click here.

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