The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 11, 2012
From the notebook: Pension reform backer explains rationale

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Today's report on efforts to put a pension-change measure on the ballot notes that donations have started to come in and that the campaign is now entering a new phase to raise some quick cash.

Tench Coxe, a managing partner of Palo Alto-based Sutter Hill Ventures, is one of three Silicon Valley businessmen who contributed $25,000 to California Pension Reform at the end of last year.

He's also the only person to respond to a request for comment for today's pension initiative story in The Bee. We called and left a message for Coxe on Monday. He asked, through his assistant, that we email questions to him.

So we did. For context, here's our email and Coxe's response, which we received on Tuesday. We included some of it in the draft of our story, but it didn't make the final cut.

Mr. Coxe:

I'm writing a news story regarding efforts to get a pension reform measure on the November 2012 ballot and saw on the Secretary of State's website that you recently have contributed $25,000 to California Pension Reform.

As I'm sure you know, many people are watching CPR's efforts closely, particularly because its success or failure to raise money for a signature drive is a key measure of whether their efforts will produce something for voters to consider in the fall.

That's the background for these questions. I appreciate your consideration:

One school of thought is that public pension reform isn't a pressing item for business interests that might underwrite an initiative. But you've contributed. Would you suggest that others in the business community do the same? Why?

Why did you contribute?

How did you become aware of the measure?

Labor opposes CPR's efforts. Do you worry that the unions might stage some sort of boycott or try some other means to intimidate you?

Thanks again for considering these questions.


Hi Jon,

I contributed because I don't think it's in anyone's interest for California to go the way of Greece. I think we all need to be intellectually honest about the ultimate cost of unfunded pension obligations, our state's chronic deficit, the lack of spending for education and the need to make real choices, eg. High speed rail or local rail and road improvement.

All the best,

Tench Coxe

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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