Action on the Public Pension Front

As the economy has tanked public attention has focused more and more on government. It seems we want government to bail us out, provide welfare payments disguised as “unemployment benefits”, give us health care, defend us from everything from rats in our neighborhood to terrorists no matter where they are, and everything in between. But those government employees and their paychecks and retirement programs are another story – we don’t’ like them because they cost too much and in these times seem too generous.

“Pension benefits must be cut” is a cry heard a lot these days. Many government entities in California are seeking to do that, in various ways. In San Diego public sector labor fought back by qualifying an initiative for the ballot that would install term limits for County Supervisors. It was passed by the voters, so some vengeance has been achieved against local elected officials who sought to reduce public sector retirement and other benefits. In Riverside County the Press-Enterprise newspaper reports that the Sheriff’s Association has qualified an initiative for the ballot that would prohibit the Board of Supervisors from changing pension benefits without a vote of the electorate (“Public-safety pension measure heading to voters”, June 16).

This means the Supervisors could neither enhance nor cut public safety retirement benefits without a vote of the people. Taking a cue from the recent failed PG&E campaign to feather its own nest via Proposition 16, this initiative will be known as the Public Safety and Taxpayer Protection Act. Here we go again, an initiative with the words “Taxpayer Protection Act”.
The Supervisors don’t like this initiative tying their hands – on the down side at least – so promise to craft another initiative more to their liking for the same fall ballot. Expect it to allow the Supervisors to slash the system, but do nothing that would increase costs.

On another front, today’s Register reports that the Schwarzenegger administration has just completed negotiations with several state employee unions that will change retirement plan offerings for newly hired state employees. Employees will pay more into the system each month, and the age at which full retirement benefits are earned will be upped 5 years. This deal covers CHP employees and those of a few other unions – 24,000 State employees overall. The Legislature has to approve, so it is not yet a done deal. Negotiation of these kinds of changes with other state employee unions is underway.

CalPERS – the State retirement system that also serves some cities and counties – has lost money on its investments in the last couple of years, creating a hole in its funding. The CalPERS Board just voted to require the State and other participating governments to increase their financial contribution to the system. This on top of a 16% health insurance cost hike that is being passed on to the State and State retirees. (Sacramento Bee “CalPERS health premiums to face up to 16 percent increase”, June 16, 2010).

Lot’s going on in the public sector retirement benefits arena. Now, why hasn’t my latest unemployment “benefit” check arrived? Those bastards —-

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.