The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 4, 2011
Column extra: Roger Dickinson talks about pensions, fairness

110304 Dickinson Randal Benton 2010.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

This week's column about pensions and fairness was inspired by two sources: The Little Hoover Commission's Feb. 24 report, which concludes public employee pensions need to be radically changed, and what Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said about public pensions during his visit to The Bee Capitol Bureau the next day.

We weren't able to attend the Dickinson interview, but we listened to an audio recording of it later. Here are some of the highlights, with an interesting clip at the end that you can download.:

On whether pension legislation will come from the Democrat-controlled state Legislature: "I do think that Democrats are prepared to do so. I do think the Democrats will point to some of the concessions made by state employees. ... There's a recognition by Democrats that pension issues need to be addressed."

On the rhetoric sparked by public pension policy: "The average state worker pension is 30,000 bucks a year. ... There's some effort out there by some parties in some quarters to create the impression that everybody who spends five years in government service somehow retires to Hawaii and eats out at an expensive restaurant every night and drives a Cadillac or a Mercedes ... and that's not the case."

On public safety employees' pensions: "I do think that safety retirement is an area that's going to get looked at carefully. ... There's a growing recognition, even among public safety unions, that they're going to have to look at some adjustments to their pensions."

The discussion then turned to defined benefit pensions when The Bee's Kevin Yamamura asked, "What about this concept of defined benefit vs. defined contribution? Can we sustain these kinds of defined benefit programs going forward where basically the government bears the risk?"

Dickinson suggested that the problem isn't government pension security, but rather the relative lack of it for private sector workers.

Click here to download an audio clip of what he said. (Hat tip to Capitol Alert's Torey Van Oot for sharing the clip.)

PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson / Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee, Dec. 8, 2010

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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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