SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Working and retired state employees were grilling more than hotdogs at their annual Labor Day picnic on Monday. They were also grilling a decision by state lawmakers to approve the biggest cutback in their benefits in state history.

This picnic is first time union and state workers are meeting since the pension reform package was approved by the Legislature on Friday.

While they are upset over the changes, critics say they are just crying crocodile tears.

“It’s just a damn shame is what it is,” state worker Claudia Gambaro said.

“There’s other places they can get the money from to fill their voids,” retired union worker Ralph Walker said.

Lawmakers approved the sweeping pension reform last week that is supposed to save taxpayers billions of dollars by raising the retirement age and contribution requirements for new public workers.

“We already have a recruitment and retention issue so this is going to be less desirable for new people to come into the state,” Gambaro said. “We’re low-hanging fruit. They go after us all the time because they got our pocketbooks.”

According to CalPERS, most public workers contributed between 7 to 10 percent to their pension fund. Friday’s decision requires new hires to now pay half their retirement contributions over time.

“Down the road for the newcomers I think it’s really definitely going to impact them in a negative way,” Walker said.

Meanwhile, critics say California still has some of the most generous pension benefits in the country and that major pension reform for state workers is inevitable to cover the state’s $5 billion worth of pension liability.

So far, state workers are still dodging that bullet while taxpayers keep getting hit.

“The sole purpose of this reform is for Jerry Brown to say, ‘Look, I got you some pension reform’ as a justification for Proposition 30, which is a massive tax increase in November,” said Jon Coupal with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

The pension reform bill is still waiting on the governor’s signature, but there are already talks of further reform being on the 2014 ballot.


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