The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 7, 2011
CalPERS, pension reform measures face major test

Measures to end pension spiking, reduce gift limits for the state pension funds' employees and shut the pension funds' "revolving doors" now sit in the Legislature's appropriations committees, facing a major test they before they can reach Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

The bills have received bipartisan support through the Legislature so far, but two bills could be held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and one in the Senate's fiscal committee because of the measures' sponsor and their potential costs to the state.

Controller John Chiang sponsored the two of three bills and is a strong supporter of the other. After Chiang decided to dock legislators' pay for failing to pass a budget on-time, six of the 12 other measures he sponsored have met their demise one way or another. Authors of the pension-related reform measures say they don't want to see their measures get caught up in the backlash and will keep pushing for them.

The committees also could choose in late August to place the bills on their respective suspense files, citing high enforcement or implementation costs, effectively killing the bills for this year.

Chiang and CalPERS board member J.J. Jelincic had a spat earlier this year about one of the bills.

Endorsed by all CalPERS board members except Jelincic, Senate Bill 439 would lower annual gift limits for pension fund board members and officials from $420 to $50. Jelincic said such a limit would force employees to subsidize their work because state reimbursement rates don't cover business meal costs in cities such as Boston or Chicago. Employees, in turn, let those doing business with the fund pick up the tab.

Chiang said some of Jelincic's arguments were factually inaccurate and "delusional." He said he was pursuing "the reforms necessary to restore public confidence" in the state's two pension funds. The bill has garnered unanimous support in five separate votes in the Legislature.

Senate Bill 27 would put a clamp on pension spiking while Assembly Bill 873 would prevent former pension fund employees from quickly coming back to lobby their former employer.

The bills are likely to be considered in committee after the Legislature returns from summer recess on Aug. 15. If the bills pass out of committee, they still would face at least one more full floor vote before moving to the governor.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Based on information provided by the controller's office, the original version of this post stated Senate Bill 27 was sponsored by the controller. In fact, the controller only wrote a letter of support for the measure.

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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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