On The Money: Pension Proposal Triggers War

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The battle over public pensions escalated today into a full scale war. One group, California Pension Reform, is willing to spend millions of dollars to change pensions forever. And the $100,000 Pension Club is framing the debate.

There are now 12,199 names on the list of retired government workers collecting six-figure pensions for life. That’s a jump of 34% compared to last year’s total of 9,111. But that may change with a pension reform measure that could be heading to the ballot next year.

“California faces at least a $240 billion unfunded liability,” stated Dan Pellissier, the president of California Pension Reform.

Pension reform advocates in California admit they are using Texas oil money to raise $3 million for a pension overhaul. For California government workers – it is war.

David Low of Californians for Retirement Security warned, “We’ll be opposing this initiative with everything we have.” Low told CBS 13, “Anybody who decides they want to back this initiative will become Public Enemy number 1 for our organizations.”

The pension reform initiatives are actually constitutional amendments that would require voter approval. They call for raising the retirement age to 67 for most workers and 58 for police and firefighters. One of the proposals would place a cap on pensions at $100,000 a year. And the reform measures would put an end to pension spiking by calculating benefits on a 3-year average instead of using the highest salary from one year. Government workers would also pay more towards their own pensions – benefits that critics say are too generous.

“That really doesn’t make sense in the long run to have the public servants making more than the people who are paying their salaries,” said Mike Genest of California Pension Reform.

Public employees say they’ll fight any proposal that cuts their benefits.

David Low told CBS 13, “Current employees would be getting anywhere from 30 to 60% less in their retirement under this proposal and it’s been decided that that’s unconstitutional and illegal.”

In response, Dan Pellissier stated, “We have to fix California’s pensions in order to save our state’s finances.”

Pellissier said his initiatives go much further towards true pension reform than the plan issued last week by Governor Jerry Brown. Pellissier explained his plan would affect current employees, as opposed to those hired in the future, as a way of reducing the state’s massive unfunded liability.

Meanwhile, Governor Brown defended his 12-point pension plan today and issued this statement from press secretary Gil Duran:

“Last week, Governor Brown laid out the best and most realistic plan for achieving significant pension reform. He will first focus his efforts on working with the legislature to enact these proposals to reduce taxpayer risk and cost while providing a fair retirement benefit to employees. This solid plan will reduce taxpayer costs by billions of dollars, raise the retirement age and end abuses like pension spiking and purchasing ‘air time.’”

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