By putting the bill on the committee's suspense file, Democrats who run the committee can say it's still technically alive. But It's at least the seventh time such a measure has been bottled up.
Assembly Bill 7, authored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D- Pasadena, originally prohibited the salary increases or bonuses for employees earning $150,000 or more per year. He told committee members this morning that he is amending the measure to lower the threshold another $50,000 to increase the state's savings. His office estimated the freeze, applied until Jan.1, 2014, would cut about $20 million from the government payroll.
Ken DaRosa of the Department of Finance said the savings would be "very nominal" given that relatively few state employees earn six-figure salaries and that the measure doesn't affect workers under binding labor contracts.
CalPERS and CalSTRS oppose the bill. CalSTRS says it would hurt fund investments by discouraging recruiting and retention. Investment managers generally make much more money in the private sector than working for public pension funds.
Portantino defended the measure as a money-saver that also sends a message.
"In time of budget deficits and high unemployment ... and deep budget cuts, it makes no sense to let CSUS administrators hand out bonuses or for investment officers at CalPERS to get bonuses," he said.
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, said she wished that the measure extended to all state workers, but recognized that legal barriers prevent it. She also disagreed with the public pension funds' criticism and referenced their investment losses.
"I understand the competitiveness argument," she said, "but clearly some of the investment officers have been less than adequate."
Portantino's office issued this press release just a few minutes ago.
PHOTO: Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov