Several Sonoma County politicians who rely on labor union support are coming out early against a proposed statewide ballot measure that could dramatically overhaul public employee pensions.
Assemblyman Michael Allen says pension reform is “a work in progress,” with additional steps potentially including a hybrid system that shifts some of the risk for investment losses from taxpayers to public employees.
After spending a day digesting the details of Gov. Jerry Brown’s complex pension deal pending in the Legislature, local officials say it would impact not only future local public employees but thousands of current workers, too. By enacting ‘anti-spiking’ provisions for existing workers, requiring employees to pay half the cost of their pensions and shifting the landscape for labor negotiations, it is becoming clear that the governor’s plan goes beyond state employees and would have wide-ranging implications for local governments. Future employees would face caps on pensions and less generous pension formulas.
The details remain murky, but local government officials in Sonoma County said Tuesday it appears Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension deal will have an impact on local workers. The City of Santa Rosa expects to get clarification today from its attorneys specializing in pension issues, but the plan appear to affect not just state workers but future municipal workers, said Human Resources Director Fran Elm.
County pension costs are up more than 400 percent since 2000 and the average annual compensation on which pensions are computed has risen 75 percent during that time to nearly $92,000 for workers retiring in 2011. The Board of Supervisors, in charge of setting benefits for a retirement system they acknowledge is unsustainable, has made no changes despite public outcry that bloated pensions are compromising essential public services. But last week, they indicated add-ons like ones that boost pensions would be high on their list of fixes.
Petaluma’s police union and the city have tentatively agreed to a two-year pact that will reduce retirement benefits for new hires and require them to wait until they’re older to get maximum pensions. The agreement, which the City Council will consider at its July 2 meeting, institutes a two-tiered retirement system that provides no immediate savings but modest savings in the coming decades as the workforce turns over.
Under San Jose’s measure, current city employees will have to pay up to 16 percent of their salaries to hold onto their retirement plan otherwise they will have to accept scaled-back benefits. San Diego’s Proposition B calls for a six-year freeze on pay levels used to determine pension benefits.