Ryan Schohr: Pension reform effort a good start
Gov. Jerry Brown's recent proposal to cut California's pension costs was a good start to a problem that California can no longer afford to ignore.
Finally, our elected officials are making attempts to repair the damage done by legislation such as SB 400. The exorbitant retirement plans that government and public sector employees are able to enjoy on the backs of hard working Californians can no longer be the status quo.
California taxpayers have been lining the pockets of union members and public employees for too long, and our state has come to its financial crossroads. Small businesses are the catalysts of our state's economy. They should be able to focus on expanding jobs and opportunity within our state.
Instead, high taxes and unnecessary regulation have forced business owners in California to downsize or move out of the state. As a result, Californians in the private sector have witnessed record unemployment rates, while employees in the public sector benefit from unrealistic retirement packages. The passing of SB 400 in 1999 has been detrimental to the economy of California because not only did it offer a 20 percent to 50 percent increase to the benefits of new public employees, but it also included the retirements of employees who had been expecting lower compensation due to previous benefit packages.
As a result, Californians fund more than 9,000 retired state or local employees who receive at least $100,000 a year. Our state's taxpayers will suffer the consequences of poor legislative decisions for years to come.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for California's first responders; firefighters, police officers and paramedics throughout our state improve the quality of life for residents.
But how have our elected officials decided that cooks, plumbers, business managers and audiovisual specialists working within our prison system should receive the same benefits as those police officers or firefighters who put their lives on the line?
Our elected officials let us down, and this is why Brown's pension reform is a necessary step in the right direction.
In the face of an historic recession, as California experiences record highs in unemployment, our state somehow found the funding to hire 13,000 new employees from 2008-10. Since 1998, the state's workforce has grown by more than 31 percent. Taxpayers fund 85 percent of the health-care premiums for active employees, 100 percent of health care costs for retirees and 90 percent of the costs for their families.
While many cities in the Central Valley and in the North State experience unemployment of up to 40 percent, bureaucrats in Sacramento expect us to fund their special interests and careless hiring practices.
It is imperative that California and the legislators in Sacramento cease to continue this record of negligence.
Brown's proposal must be the first step of a stairway to getting California back on track.
A state that faces $400 billion in pension costs cannot pass legislation that will possibly cut $60 billion over the next 30 years and call it good.
The power of unions and the decisions of legislators who have fallen victim to their rhetoric have stripped California of its prosperity.
We as Californians must build on this last piece of legislation to bring the private sector back to our state and decrease unemployment. This is a good start, Gov. Brown, but we are not done.