California

Is Jerry Brown Serious About Pension Reform?

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Good morning, grumpy pants!

Steven Greenhut, who knows where the bodies are buried when it comes to California's pension debacle, assesses the evidence to date and concludes non:

By his actions so far, Brown appears unserious about pension reform. At his recent news conference announcing his budget, he punted on pension reform, which is probably the biggest financial mess facing the state. Reporters asked about that, and, in his typically ornery way, he suggested that we go to his Web site and look at his plan. That plan isn't bad, as it calls for an end to pension-spiking abuses, a two-tiered system with lower benefits for new employees, an end to retroactive increases […], an increase in employee contributions and some good-government reforms to increase oversight of pension institutions such as the scandal-plagued California Public Employees' Retirement System.

Great, but there's a huge difference between including something on a campaign Web site and including it in a budget. On Jan. 13, […] Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, the group best-known for publishing a database revealing how many state employees receive pensions of at least $100,000[,] … told [a limited-government conference] that during the campaign she had advised both Brown and GOP candidate Meg Whitman on pension-reform issues, and she gave Brown a list of several minor things he could do to save money on pensions – the low-hanging fruit that wouldn't elicit much blowback from the unions.

He could easily have included these elements in his plan and saved millions of dollars. Yet he chose not to include any of them. Fritz is an auditor, and when she audits companies she says she looks for little things to know whether the company is serious about getting its books in order. Looking at these little things – or rather the way Brown and Co. refused to take even the tiniest step toward pension reform in the budget – she is convinced that Brown is not serious about pension reform.

Whole thing here; link via the ever-valuable (and depressing!) Pension Tsunami. Make sure to re-read Greenhut's classic February 2010 Reason feature "Class War: How public servants became our masters."