Deal set on Calif. public worker pensions

Aug. 28, 2012 at 7:09 PM
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SACRAMENTO, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- California Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed with lawmakers on a plan he says will "take public retiree benefits back to" where they were 30 years ago.

The deal provides for higher contributions and smaller pensions for future hires, many of whom will have to wait more years before they can collect maximum pension benefits.

Citing sources familiar with the agreement, which would become effective Jan. 1, The Sacramento Bee said the deal calls for new employees to contribute half of the normal cost of their pensions, while contribution rates for current workers would be subject to negotiations with employers.

New workers who fall into the category of miscellaneous employees -- the largest segment of public workers -- would not begin to collect maximum benefits until age 67. Most public employees in the state now can begin to collect maximum benefits at age 62.

Future public safety hires would not be able to begin collecting their top benefit amount until age 57 -- up from 50 for people currently holding similar jobs.

The California Legislature this year already adopted several changes in public employee pension systems, including a ban on retroactive pension enhancements and so-called pension holidays, which allowed employers and employees to skip some contributions when pension funds run surpluses.

Speaking with reporters in Los Angeles Tuesday, Brown called the proposed reform a "radical change" that would save the state $18 billion to $30 billion during the next 30 years, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"It will take public retiree benefits back to below where they were when I was governor the last time," said Brown -- who governed the state from 1975 to 1983.

Dan Pellessier, president of California Pension Reform, said the proposal wasn't radical enough.

"They're not changing the benefits that we have in any substantial way," Pellessier said "I can't believe the governor is going along with this."

Public employee union officials were also critical, calling the deal Brown announced a betrayal of public workers and saying they are considering challenging it in court, the Times reported.

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