Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed rollback of public employee pensions received a tepid response from legislators at its first public hearing today, even as the Democratic governor made a rare public appeal for the plan.
"We think this is not kind of like an opening bargaining, in my opinion this is the minimum, this is what makes sense, consistent with the law and even consistent with what I think the Legislature can get to," Brown told members of a joint legislative committee on pensions.
Brown outlined in October a package of proposed changes to the pension system that includes raising the retirement age and transitioning to a "hybrid" system combining defined benefits and 401(k) style plan for new workers. He has also called for increasing employee contributions and cracking down on pension calculating practices that can increase payouts.
Legislators on the panel commended the governor for taking on the issue, but stopped far short of endorsing his approach. Some pressed for more details and questioned the legality of parts of the plan, pointing to concerns raised by the state Legislative Analyst's Office and the state's two major pension systems.
Brown will need support of both Democrats and Republicans in both houses to put parts of his plan that require voter approval on next year's ballot.
Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, called the plan a "good first step," but questioned whether it went far enough to address the state's unfunded pension liability.
Brown said he sought to craft a plan that he thought had "a real possibility to get enacted," given legal and political constraints.
"Whatever we do this year, it isn't over, but I think I've laid out a pathway that makes sense," he said.