June 28, 2012, was the last day for the California legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to appear on November’s ballot to address pension reforms. Pension reforms are a critical issue to the sustainability of our way of life and yet the California voters will not be able to address this important issue in November. Here’s what happened.
Last October, Governor Jerry Brown came out with his 12 point Pension Reform plan. Senator Bob Huff, Dist. 29, introduced SCA 18, which copied the governor’s 12-point plan and introduced it to the legislature. SCA 18 never made it out of committee. The Democrat-controlled legislature would not allow the voters to consider pension reform.
The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research has recently published a study that documents a $485 billion unfunded pension liability for California Public Employeesí Retirement System (CalPERS), California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), and the University of California Retirement Plan. There are plenty of excuses that are given for this unfunded liability but blaming past politicians will not fix the problem.
We need to elect leaders who will be willing to cast the difficult votes that are necessary in order to fix this problem. Doing nothing is not going to solve the problem. Passing piecemeal legislation is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.
Not putting sustainable pension reform on the November ballot will hurt not only our state, but also our counties and our cities. The pension problem is eating up large portions of every budget. Contra Costa County Administrator David Twa has stated that the county will be facing a 21 percent increase in pension obligations over the next three years.
We have promised benefits to employees and now we do not have the ability to write those checks. If we do not act soon to tackle this problem, one has to wonder how soon it will be before other cities and maybe counties will be following the city of Stockton into bankruptcy.
~ Mark Meuser is running for the California State Senate, district 7. To find out more, go to www.markmeuser.com.