I wish I could say I was surprised. I wish I could say that this is a new frustration. In reality it is just the same old song we keep hearing from public employee unions. More than a year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature showed leadership by making some moderate changes to the State’s pension systems. It was not everything that taxpayers wanted or hoped for; but it was a significant step in the right direction to limit pension spiking and try to bring some common sense to a system that was ignoring economic realities and running away from financial responsibility.
Two week ago, the CalPERS Board ignored the action by the Governor and the legislature last year and again spiked pension benefits for public employees by approving 99 new types of extra pay that will count in pension calculations. Examples of the 99 new ways to bolster pensions included things like bonuses paid for marksmanship, longevity, physical fitness and obtaining a new license.
Despite this new financial burden on the cities, counties, school districts and other public employers who participate in the CalPERS system, the CalPER’s staff has done no work to estimate the cost of implementing the 99 rule changes. These new changes go against the express will of the Governor and legislature, and they will impact every taxpayers in the State.
The taxpayers of California know that every dollar spent on increasing pension benefits for public sector employees is a dollar that is not available for students in the classroom, police and firefighters, street and sidewalk repair, expanded library hours, and so many other critical public services we have seen cut again and again while pension costs soar.
Our elected leaders at the Capitol and throughout California simply must not accept actions like these. If representatives on boards such as CalPERS won’t act responsibly, then our elected leadership must stand up and use their legislative and administrative powers to force lasting pension reform.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
The Business Perspective is a weekly column by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Public Policy staff.