Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Brown Announces Pension Deal; Vote Coming Friday

Aug 28, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown says the pension deal he announced today will save the state billions of dollars. But it’s drawing criticism from unions and Republicans.

Here is some of what’s in the plan: A cap on the salary that a public employee in California could use to calculate a pension. Higher retirement ages, with reduced payments. And a requirement for employees to pay at least half of their pension costs.

It’s taken the governor nearly a year to walk through the pension minefield. And as he unveiled the deal to reporters in Los Angeles, he took a bit of a victory lap. “It’s a big day for California voters and California taxpayers.”

The legislation doesn’t do everything Brown proposed last fall in his 12-point plan. For example, the pension salary cap of $110,000 is in place of a hybrid 401k-style system. And it could take up to five years before all employees pay half their pension costs. But the governor says it will save the state tens of billions of dollars while ending abuses like spiking and double-dipping.

“Look – this is a major step. It took moving heaven and earth to get this far. Is this the end of the story? No. We’ll continue to monitor it,” said Brown.

The deal swiftly met fierce pushback from public employee unions. They say it would take a “wrecking ball to retirement security” while undermining collective bargaining. Republicans are skeptical too, especially because they just got their first look at the bill’s language late yesterday. GOP Senator Mimi Walters calls the deal “a much watered-down version” of Brown’s original proposal.

“And my biggest concern is that they aren’t making any constitutional changes – it’s all statutory. And what will happen is in the future, legislatures can undo the changes that they want to put forward," said Walters.

Democratic legislative leaders are praising the deal and promising a vote on Friday. That’s the last day before lawmakers adjourn for the rest of the year.