Two proposed ballot measures aim to scale back public pensions
Less than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his proposal to change the state’s employee retirement system, critics of public pensions unveiled two new plans to scale back worker benefits, with hopes of putting one of them on the November 2012 ballot.
The major obstacle for the group’s initiative plans remains money. It would take upwards of $2 million to simply qualify a measure for the ballot, and thus far no donor has come forward to fund either of the pension proposals.
But the initiatives filed Wednesday by California Pension Reform, a group led by former state GOP Chairman Duf Sundheim and former Schwarzenegger finance director Mike Genest, help draw the battle lines for the pension debate for the 2012 legislative year.
Brown put down his marker last week, calling for a new mandatory 401(k)-style savings plan for new employees to supplement a scaled-back guaranteed pension. Brown also wants to raise the retirement age for most new workers to receive full benefits from 55 to 67.
The two potential initiatives filed with the attorney general’s office Wednesday go further than Brown’s proposal, tackling benefits for existing workers as well as future hires. One of the proposals would shift most state workers to a 401(k)-style plan almost exclusively. The proposal also places caps on how much an employer can pay toward a worker’s retirement, and asks current workers to pay more of their own retirement than even Brown is asking.
Under the governor’s pension blueprint, employees would pay at least half of the cost for their own retirement. Labor unions pushed back against Brown’s proposal, saying it went too far, and are sure to oppose the new initiatives. But fear of a stronger pension measure on the November ballot could serve as political leverage for Brown as he tries to push his pension plan through the legislative process.
-- Anthony York in Sacramento
Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown gestures to a chart showing some of his proposals to roll back public employee pension benefits during an Oct. 27 news conference in Sacramento. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press