Get ready for some major public employee pension push back from Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security, the broad-based coalition of government worker unions chaired by Dave Low of the California School Employees Association.
The group has tapped Steve Maviglio, head of Sacramento-based Forza Communications, to speak up for civil service workers, starting with an open letter to lawmakers Tuesday afternoon, urging that they "protect retirement security for those who serve the public."
Maviglio brings to bear 30 years of political communications experience at the state, local and national level. In Sacramento, he's probably best known as the spokesman for former Gov. Gray Davis and Assembly Speakers Fabian Núñez and Karen Bass. Most recently, he was the spokesman for the group that successfully opposed Proposition 23, the November 2010 measure that would have suspended the state's greenhouse gas law.
The Maviglio hiring signals that the unions believe they need to raise their public communications game, particularly given the growing pressures on employee pay and pensions created by the state's deep -- and deeply divisive -- $26.6 billion budget deficit. The economy also has created a bit of a tailwind for groups looking to cut current public employees' pension benefits or severely limit public employee collective bargaining.
While such changes may be a political long shot in California, the fact that the ideas have entered the public discourse pushes out the boundaries of the pension/compensation reform debate.
And if voters don't approve Gov. Jerry Brown's tax extension plan to help close part of that shortfall, it will be Maviglio's job to shape the message that keeps government workers' pay and pensions from being ripped apart in the political storm that will undoubtedly follow.
PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Maviglio testifies before the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, January 7, 2004. Sacramento Bee/ John Decker