It appears that Governor Jerry Brown’s recently unveiled 12-Point Public Employee Pension Reform Plan is gaining traction over a wide swath of California voters and not just fiscal conservatives. Periodically the Sacramento Bee publishes an interesting debate between two writers titled “Head to Head.” Head to Head pits conservative Ben Boychuk and liberal Pia Lopez on a wide range of political issues. The November 2, 2011-piece caught my eye. The question debated between Mr. Boychuk and Ms. Lopez was: “Does Brown’s pension reform plan go far enough in curbing costs?” Not surprisingly, Mr. Boychuk says it does not but give Governor Brown credit for a good start. I was most surprised, in fact shocked, that Ms. Lopez supported Governor Brown’s pension reform plan. Ms. Lopez sets forth a thoughtful analysis of the Brown Plan and concludes that while it does go far enough it is in fact a good idea.
Ms. Lopez’s opinions are consistent with a recent LA Times poll which found that over 75% of State Democrats supported significant public employee pension reform. California’s Public Sector employee unions should note the direction of public opinion and plan accordingly. While there seems to be wide public support for the Brown Plan, it still has to pass the Democrat-controlled Legislature before it ever reaches voters as a ballot initiative–a total longshot. Notwithstanding, the Brown Plan is tame compared to other pension reform plans that may show up on next year’s ballot such as a 100% defined contribution plan and mandatory freezes on all pay levels tackling the problem of the massive underfunding of existing pension obligations. Recently, a Little Hoover Commission report found that the ten largest pension plans in California had a collective 240 billion shortfall over the next 30 years. Critics argue that the Brown Plan does not come remotely close to meeting this shortfall.
For today’s California public sector employee union it is imperative that they keep their enemies close and their friends closer.