Pension Reform Mirrors Brown Proposal
FEB. 22, 2012
By KATY GRIMES
With the recent pension reform ballot initiative defeated before it ever made it onto the ballot, many in California believed that taxpayers would never get a change to vote on the escalating pension debt predicament. However, the game has changed mid-play, with the Legislature stepping up this week to assist the Governor with his pension reform plan.
Why? Because, according to Republicans, the $240 billion in California pension debt is not going away.
Republicans Support Governor’s Proposal
Despite being largely ignored for any and all pension reform proposals during the past year, Republican lawmakers announced today a package of pension reform bills to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent reform proposal.
At a Capitol press conference today, a large group of Assembly and Senate Republicans said they are reaching across the aisle to ask Democratic lawmakers for support of Brown’s pension reform proposal.
Republicans said they also plan to propose other necessary reforms to augment the plan in order to stop abusive pension practices, and bring public employee pensions more closely in line with the private sector.
“Republicans believe that the Governor should have an up-or-down vote on his pension reform plan,” said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. “While we have heard Democrats give lip service about supporting his plan, none of their Members have committed to supporting it, or even carrying it.”
Huff explained that was a big part of the motivation behind Republicans’ decision to present Brown’s pension reforms in the form of legislation. “We have not changed one comma, one period or one word,” said Huff. This is his plan as he wrote it, and we will stand with him to see it passed.”
“Governor Brown’s pension reform plan represents the first step of the changes that must be enacted to get our runaway pension system under control,” said Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R- Tulare.
Recent studies have estimated that California’s total ongoing unfunded state pension obligations could be as high as $500 billion.
The Republicans referred to a Public Policy Institute of California poll, which found that 83 percent of Californians agreed that the amount of government spending on pensions is a big problem for the state.
“Local governments across the state are wrestling with their own pension reform problems,” said Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, the author of the Assembly’s pension reform bills.
Senator Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, reminded the media that Republicans have been asking for colleagues to pass meaningful pension reforms. “I have introduced many of these myself. And, as a member of the pension reform conference committee, I’ve remained hopeful that the committee would move forward with the governor’s modest reforms,” said Walters. “However, the persistence of special interests to derail any serious efforts to fix our massively underfunded pension systems is hampering any significant progress. That is why it is imperative that we act now and entreat our Democrat colleagues to work with us.”
Huff said that while the legislative timeline for the reforms “could be glacial,” Republicans were getting to work on the bills immediately.
Senate Constitutional Amendment 18, by Huff; Senate Bill 1176, by Huff; and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22, by Smyth; and a second Assembly Bill still pending, also by Smyth, will be the Republican’s legislation. After the press conference, Smyth added, “The bills are a mirror image of the governor’s pension reform plan, and are made up of components we negotiated last year with the governor.”
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