The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 6, 2012
Column Extra: What CalPERS said on 1999 pension increases

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Supporters and critics of pension reform legislation sent to Gov. Jerry Brown last week both make the point that the measure rolls back retirement benefits for future hires to pre-1999 levels. That year is significant because that's when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 400, retroactively and prospectively increasing benefits for state and local workers. Reformers consider the measure the Big Mistake in California public pensions' recent history.

We thought it might be interesting to see how CalPERS contributed to the discussion 13 years ago, so we've posted the staff analysis below. The agenda item from June 15, 1999, shows that the CalPERS board was given three scenarios of how much the enhanced package would cost in 10 years, depending on how well the fund's investments performed. The estimates ranged from zero costs to $679 million to nearly $4 billion.

The board went with the no-cost scenario in its campaign for the increases. (We'll soon post the CalPERS brochure that reflects the fund's pro-SB 400 position.)

Below the staff report you'll find a chart that shows In fiscal 2010-11, the state's actual SB 400 cost was $553 million, or $26 million below the mid-range scenario that staff envisioned in 1999.

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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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