The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

June 14, 2011
Unions challenge 'pension-gutting agenda' amid budget talks

Dave Low, chairman of the union-backed Californians for Retirement Security, on Monday criticized Republicans for stalling an agreement on the state budget to advance proposals he said remain "non-starters" for his group.

In response to Monday's release of a list of pension, regulatory and spending reforms sought by a group of four Republican senators, Low said in a statement it was unconscionable for a few Republicans to push a "pension-gutting agenda" while "holding the state budget hostage." The Legislature faces a Wednesday deadline to pass a balanced budget.

Specifically, Low said later in an interview that the union coalition continues to oppose mandatory hybrid plans for new hires. If Democrats adopted that idea and the other pension changes that the Republicans want, his group would spend money to defeat the ballot measure carrying the reform, he said.

"We shouldn't strike a horrible deal for a temporary tax extension," Low said. "It's simply a non-starter. The Republicans completely ignore all the concessions that have already been made by public employees up and down this state."

Low's group is a union coalition representing 1.5 million public employees and retirees. The group's full statement is below.

"Public Employees unequivocally support fair efforts to clamp down on pension fraud and abuse. Overall, California public employees' contributions to their pensions have climbed from 5 percent to 7 to up to 11 percent, formulas for calculating pensions have been reduced and stringent new rules are being established to eliminate abuses such as spiking. In all, these changes - made through collective bargaining - have reduced state pension costs by $570 million over the past two years.

We find it unconscionable that a handful of Republican extremists are holding the state budget hostage only to advance their pension-gutting agenda. Even though public employee pensions amount to just three percent of California's state budget, we will continue to work with the Governor and Legislature and support changes in the pension system to root out abuse. But we will absolutely oppose efforts to gut retirement security for firefighters, teachers, school employees, police and other public employees."

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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 jortiz@sacbee.com.

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