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In curveball, GOP leaders back Gov. Jerry Brown's pension overhaul

Gov. Jerry Brown
Throwing a political curveball, Republican lawmakers lined up behind Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to overhaul public pensions Wednesday, and called on Democrats to support the leader of their party.

Backed by the GOP caucus at a Capitol news conference, Republican leaders said they had introduced a series of bills that mirror the 12-point plan the governor introduced last fall. Lawmakers said the action was necessary, accusing Democrats of doing little more than paying lip service to the issue.

“Today, we are stepping up to the plate, showing Republicans are united behind the governor’s plan,” said GOP Assembly leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare). “Now it’s up to the governor to get the Democrats on board.”

The proposals, which would require public employees to pay more for their retirement and cut benefits for new hires, have rankled some Democrats and their political allies in organized labor. Brown sent proposed bill language to the Legislature nearly three weeks ago, but, as Republicans noted, no lawmaker in his own party has stepped up to formally introduce legislation.

Brown was out of state Wednesday, traveling to Washington, D.C., to attend the winter meeting of the National Governors Assn. In a statement, Brown's office didn't even acknowledge the Republican support.

"Governor Brown believes the need for pension reform is urgent," said spokesman Evan Westrup. "We will continue to work with the Legislature to enact serious reforms."

A bipartisan legislative committee is studying the governor’s plan, but Republicans said progress was being hampered by union pressure.

Last year, Republicans had pushed some of the same ideas in budget negotiations with Brown but the talks fell apart. The governor had hoped to win GOP votes for his tax plan in exchange for changes to California’s pension system. At the time, Republicans said Brown’s proposals didn’t go far enough.

On Wednesday, GOP leaders said the dynamic had changed.

“There’s no strings attached to this,” said Republican Senate leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar). “It’s just good government reform needed in pensions and we’re willing to help that come about.”

RELATED:

CalPERS report undermines Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension overhaul plan

Gov. Jerry Brown risks backlash on pension plan

Clamor grows to rein in California pension benefits

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown outlines proposals to roll back public employee pension benefits during a news conference at the Capitol in October. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

 
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