By: Gary Toebben
Last week, Senate and Assembly Republicans introduced Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension reform legislation and called upon all members of the Legislature to work across party lines to enact Gov. Brown’s 12-point reform plan. The Chamber applauds this action and leadership.
The growing liability of our current public employee pension system is out of control and cannot be sustained. Gov. Brown’s plan is a blueprint for addressing billions in unfunded state pension obligations and moving our State forward toward full economic recovery. The outcome of Democrats and Republicans working together on this crisis has the potential to benefit all Californians and reduce the fiscal anxiety that citizens and every department of state government currently experiences each year.
Will it be easy? No. However, the alternative is to: (a) dramatically and permanently raise taxes, or (b) dramatically and permanently cut other government services to pay the increasing cost of pensions. While it is imperative that public employee unions advocate for their members during this discussion, state employees should not have the final say on what is in the best interest of 38 million Californians who pay the vast majority of California’s taxes and depend on the vital services that state taxes are intended to provide.
According to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 83 percent of the public is concerned about California’s growing pension liability and supports pension reform. Working together on a bipartisan solution for the long-term fiscal stability and economic prosperity of our State should be the order of the day in Sacramento, and frankly it is the reason voters send all 120 members to the Legislature. A proper solution to our pension crisis will ensure a balance between fair and reasonable retirements for government workers, and funding the important and vital government services that citizens need and expect.
Senate Constitutional Amendment 18 (Huff), Senate Bill 1176 (Huff), Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22 (Smyth) and Assembly Bill (AB 2224), are the vehicles to enact the reforms. To the Republicans credit, they did not change or modify any portion of Gov. Brown’s plan.
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce met with Gov. Brown last year where he pledged to take action on pension reform. His plan is fair. It is fair to taxpayers, retirees and Californians who depend on the government services that will have to be cut if we do not find a way to reign in the growing and unsustainable liability of public employee pensions.
Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce