Help From The Left On Pensions

Steven Greenhut: I just published a piece for the online version of City Journal regarding efforts by San Francisco progressives to rein in that city’s growing pension costs. As I explained:

Fortunately, at least a few self-styled “progressive” urban Democrats are breaking with the party leadership’s union-controlled ranks to offer serious pension-reform proposals. Given California’s political dynamics, the emergence of left-leaning pension reformers is remarkable. Not surprisingly, they’re being treated as traitors by the state’s traditional liberals and subjected to the kind of union bullying usually reserved for conservatives and Republicans.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s chief pension adviser, David Crane, is a prominent progressive who is making the pension-reform case on a statewide level. Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility and creator of the CalPERS $100,000 pension club database—which reveals the names of over 9,000 retired state workers receiving six-figure pensions—is a Democrat. But the center of the newest pension-reform debate is San Francisco, where Public Defender Jeff Adachi—a Democrat with impeccable progressive credentials—recently sponsored a ballot initiative, the Sustainable City Employee Benefits Reform Act, which would force city employees to pay a larger share of their retirement costs. As Randy Shaw wrote in July for the alternative online daily, Beyond Chron: “We are about to embark on a campaign that could bitterly divide progressives, while empowering San Francisco’s moderate and conservative forces.” In late August, Judge Harold Kahn approved the initiative, Proposition B, for the November ballot despite the efforts of the city’s muscular public-employee unions to kill it.

Their rationale is sound: Growing pension costs are sucking the life out of the programs Progressives care about. Their support for reform is crucial given that California remains a Blue State.

Posted Sept. 10, 2010

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