The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 27, 2012
Darrell Steinberg: Pension reform must pass 'strength test'

110701 Steinberg Cap Bureau.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday that the Legislature will consider some sort of pension reform bill this session, and he didn't rule out sending a hybrid plan for new hires to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature.

The Sacramento Democrat talked at length about pensions during a morning meeting with the Capitol press corps on Thursday. The Bee's Torey Van Oot was there and passed this six-minute audio file from the event.

(Warning: To hear the file, you'll need software that plays m4a files, such as RealPlayer or QuickTime.) The recording is clear but low-volume, so turn up the sound on your listening device.)

A few highlights of Steinberg's responses to reporters' questions:

On whether Steinberg is "offended" that Brown hasn't offered pension reform language:

I think the governor has laid out some principles and some concepts, and it's now the Legislature's job to take those concepts and take our own concepts and write the law. So I'm not offended by it. ...

We're not going to get caught guessing at what the governor will sign or won't sign. ... But I'm comfortable with the Legislature doing the work of legislating.

On what pension reform legislation might look like:

I think we're going to have to do something that passes the strength test. ... It shouldn't appeal to those on the far right because we're not going to go there. I believe in defined benefit pensions. At the same time, I think that there are forms of hybrid that we can work with. The retirement age issue, if done correctly and distinguishes between various professions, can be done right. We also have to deal with abuse issues.

On whether public pension change can be legislated or must go before voters as a ballot initiative:

You can do the hybrid stuff without the ballot. You can do some of the retirement age stuff without the ballot. You can do the double-dipping. ... You can do a lot of it without going to the ballot. The question is do we want to put some of it on the ballot.

On the timing of pension reform legislation:

In my view, we need to deliver that before the budget.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, talks to members of The Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau on July 6, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

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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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