The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 6, 2011
Steinberg talks about Democrats' plans to pursue pension fixes

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg shed some light this morning on the sort of changes to the state pension system that majority Democrats might pursue in the coming year.

"We are going to work in a bicameral fashion to ... come up with what we think is a very strong package," Steinberg said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau.

The Sacramento Democrat said he and his Democratic colleagues "would have been prepared to approve a package negotiated by the governor with the Republicans" as part of an agreement to hold a special election on taxes, but now that those efforts have failed he said his caucus is now preparing to move forward with their own reforms.

"What we put forward has to be strong, it has to be real, but it doesn't have to be what those who have an ideological agenda would demand as part of a negotiated solution," he said.

Steinberg pointed to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposals to eliminate purchase of air time, prohibit so-called pension holidays and retroactive pension increases and ban payment of pension benefits to employees who are convicted of a felony related to their job as "obvious" starting blocks for the package.

While Steinberg said he is "open" to discuss how to implement a pension cap or a 401k-style hybrid system for new employees "on a purely voluntary basis," he said he would not support altering future benefits of existing employees.

"I think they're vested rights," he said.

Steinberg said whether he will seek to put pension fixes on the ballot as part of a Democratic-sponsored signature initiative related to revenues or make changes legislatively is one of several "open questions" remaining as they work to put together a package.

"We're going to do things that are strong but that are done by majority vote," he said.

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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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