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Proposed Pension Exemption for Some California Union Members Prompts Debate

Feb 1, 2013

Dem. Asm. Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville/Salinas)
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The author of a bill that would exempt 20,000 California union members from last year’s pension overhaul is defending the measure against criticism that it breaks a promise to voters who just approved tax increases. 

Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo says he introduced the bill because of a conflict between the new state pension law and U.S. labor law that applies to 20,000 local and regional public transit workers.  As a result, he says, $2 billion in federal transportation funds are at risk.

“If there’s a way we can fix this, then I’m open to doing that.  But there’s a major problem that’s before the state right now and nobody has fixed it so far and projects are getting held up,” says Alejo.

But Republican Assemblyman Allan Mansoor says Californians approved Governor Jerry Brown’s tax measure last fall believing the state’s pension changes were real.

“I can’t support anything that’s going to move California backwards in terms of reform.  I feel like that would be a double-cross on the voters,” says Mansoor.

Brown’s press secretary says any new legislation should “not in any way weaken” last year’s changes.