A new Field Poll shows 51 percent of Californians support Gov. Jerry Brown and his 12-point plan for fixing the state’s broken pension system. But that number is deceiving. The support for reform is much stronger than that. The poll shows fewer than one in four Californians contend the governor’s plan goes too far. Fourteen percent – including 23 percent of Republicans – oppose the governor’s plan because they believe it doesn’t go far enough.
One key finding: Nearly two out of three respondents said that if the state is going to rollback pension benefits it should apply to current as well as newly hired employees, a key issue in the coming year. Only 22 percent said they believe changes should mainly apply to only new workers.
Some of Brown’s most significant proposals in his 12-point package are targeted only at new employees. These include his call for a “hybrid” plan that includes a traditional pension plan as well as a 401(k)-type defined contribution. His anti-spiking requirement, having pensions be based on an average of the three highest salary years and not just the single highest year, would also apply only to new hires.
Critics conted that the governor is focusing on new employees because he’s strongly supported bypublic employee labor unions. True enough. But it’s also true that the govenor knows that any changes made in retirement benefits to current employees outside of collective bargaining is likely to trigger a major court battle. And given past state Supreme Court rulings, it’s not clear that pension reformers will win.
In a recent report, Mac Taylor, the state’s legislative analyst, essentially encouraged the governor to focus on changes for new hires. But even that won’t be easy.
- Paul Gullixson