U-T San Diego: Pension reform not good enough
The pension reform plan unveiled on Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Darrell Steinberg goes further than veteran Steinberg watchers ever thought the union stalwart would go. Yet it doesn't go nearly far enough.
While its savings haven't been quantified, they won't be remotely as great, on a percentage basis, as those achieved under the San Diego pension reform measure adopted by local voters in June. (The Brown administration says the city measure would be unaffected because of San Diego's status as a charter city.)
Nor does the Brown-Steinberg plan acknowledge that generous pensions are not needed to attract and retain workers, with the possible exception of law enforcement.
In a telephone interview, state Finance Director Ana Matosantos said the measure would give local governments new flexibility right away in dealing with pension costs. This is crucial, given how many agencies are struggling with pension costs. Matosantos also described the measure as putting a ceiling, but not a floor, on benefits, so local governments could pursue even more far-reaching changes. But Republicans questioned the argument that the plan would allow substantive immediate relief for struggling agencies and said it actually amounted to a retreat from Brown's 2011 proposal.
Beyond those concerns, given how Sacramento functions, there are plenty of reasons to wonder if tough-sounding provisions would be honored by those in power.
Remember, for 41 years, most school districts have been ignoring a plainly written state law that says student performance must be part of teacher evaluations. This has been done with the blessing of the state's Public Employment Relations Board, which actually argued in a recent court case that a school district's decision to comply with state law has to be collectively bargained with the local teachers union.
For all these reasons, we strongly prefer a sweeping San Diego-style pension reform ballot initiative for all public employees to a measure that has some good provisions but an uncertain follow-through.
The Brown-Steinberg plan may be the best that Sacramento can produce. But that's not good enough.