Questions swirl around Democrats' pension plan
As California lawmakers rush to make changes to public employee pensions this week, the most important questions -- how much will the plan save and why -- remain unanswered.
Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that the proposals would save between $18 billion and $30 billion over the next 30 years, but administration officials did not release details on how he reached those numbers. They deferred questions about savings to California's pension system, known as CalPERS, but the response there was not encouraging.
"We can’t do a full and comprehensive analysis in the amount of time we have," said Amy Norris, a spokeswoman for CalPERS.
Instead, she said, officials were working on a "ballpark estimate of cost savings" that would be ready by Friday, when lawmakers are expected to cast their votes on the controversial plan. A more complete look may not be available until later, she said -- after changes to the country's largest public pension system are already voted on.
A report released by a committee of lawmakers examining pension issues did not provide any more details.
"FISCAL EFFECT: Unknown," the report said. "CalPERS and CalSTRS [the pension system for teachers] are in the process of preparing a fiscal analysis of the report. Savings are projected to be in the tens of billions over 30 years."
Also unclear is whether the pension plan will meet the requirement for a full actuarial study, which would analyze financial risk, before it is approved by lawmakers.
Neither Brown administration officials nor the spokeswoman for CalPERS would say whether they expect to meet that requirement this week. Legislative officials said the rules don't apply in this situation because the pension plan is moving through a special conference committee, not a regular standing committee.
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-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: The California Assembly floor in 2008. Credit: Los Angeles Times