The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 22, 2012
Republicans introduce Jerry Brown's pension reform plan

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point public pension reform plan has some new supporters: Republicans.

GOP lawmakers told reporters this morning that they are introducing Brown's reform plan as legislation, exactly as he wrote it.

"We haven't changed one comma, one period or one word," Senate Republican leader Bob Huff said during a Capitol press conference to announce the party's plan.

He called on Democrats to join his party to enact four measures that together would put the plan to voters as a state constitutional amendment and alter pension law for both state and local governments.

The Republican's move comes after Republican-backed California Pension Reform suspended its cash-starved campaign to put pension reform on the November ballot. One plan that the organization was considering would have closely mirrored Brown's, including the centerpiece idea to put future state and local workers into hybrid pension schemes that blend a smaller traditional guaranteed pension with a more volatile 401(k)-style component.

Lawmakers could have donated to the campaign. When asked if any of the legislators had been approached for contributions or supported the initiative campaign before its demise, Huff brushed the question aside.

"That's sort of a moot question," he said, since the campaign is dead and the initiative proposal wasn't identical to Brown's. "We're here today backing the governor's plan verbatim."

Brown's plan also raises the full retirement age for most future employees to 67, increases what most current and future workers would pay into their pension accounts and bans making future pension increases retroactive. (Click here for more details.)

Brown's plan -- and the one introduced today by Republicans -- starts with constitutional amendments that broadly outline the pension changes more narrowly defined in bills that would change state law. The plan won't go forward without two-thirds of the Legislature voting to put the constitutional changes on the Nov. 6 ballot, which would then need voter approval from a majority.

Republicans last year rejected a very similar list of public pension changes that Brown offered to put on the ballot in exchange for a tax measure on the same card.

"Last year was a different dynamic," Huff said, because this time pensions roll backs aren't a piece of a larger negotiation. "There aren't any strings attached to this."

Huff said that Republicans have been talking with Brown's staff but have no indication yet whether he'll support their efforts to pass Senate Constitutional Amendment 18, Senate Bill 1176, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22 and another Assembly pension measure that is pending.

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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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