After Gov. Jerry Brown's office described a divide in negotiations over cutting public pensions, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg suggested Tuesday that the California governor had been slow to propose bill language on a crucial piece of the package.
Steinberg said Democrats drafted a plan that caps the pension share for new public workers at roughly $110,000, giving them a less lucrative retirement benefit for income above that amount. But he challenged Brown for not providing specifics on his own "hybrid" idea that could shift some retirement risk onto workers.
"The governor has a hybrid concept but does not have a fleshed-out proposal," Steinberg said. "Even if he wanted us to take up his hybrid concept today, we couldn't because the proposal has not yet been developed."
Brown spokesman Gil Duran said in a statement this morning that Brown could not agree on some of the ideas in the Democrats' pension plan and that a legislative vote would have to wait until after this month's summer recess.
Steinberg said Democratic lawmakers are in "common agreement" with Brown on most items, including changes intended to curb spiking of pension benefits and eliminating the option to purchase service credit for years not worked, commonly referred to as "air time."
Based on Steinberg's characterization, Brown and lawmakers must still figure out two major components that would change pension calculations for new employees. One has to do with the hybrid concept, which would reduce pension promises to high-income employees. A $110,000 cap would apply generally, while a higher cap around $130,000 would apply to public-safety workers.
Another has to do with raising the retirement age for new employees. The Democratic plan would hike the starting age for non-public safety workers from 50 to 52, while it would delay full benefits until age 67. Public safety workers would have lower qualifying ages.
"We will do more of a gradation," Steinberg said. "Ultimately, 67 will be the retirement age for the highest level of benefits for 'miscellaneous' employees," referring to non-safety workers.
The changes would go beyond state employees and affect public sector workers in local government, Steinberg said. He said the Democrats' plan would save about $40 billion over 30 years, according to a projection run by CalPERS, but detailed information about that calculation was not available Tuesday.