Even Brown rues the pension monster


Governor Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown has come out swinging at public employee pensions, filing a brief with the state Supreme Court saying things must change.

“For years, self-interested practices, overly generous promises whose true costs were often shrouded by flawed actuarial analyses and failures of public leadership had caused unsustainable pension liabilities,” Brown admits.

Specifically, Brown argues against “airtime,’ the practice of allowing public employees to cheaply “buy” fake extra years of work into their record to receive higher pensions — to be paid more for work they never did, in other words.

But, as Dan Walters writes here, ”Brown appears to go even further, suggesting that the court set aside, or at least severely modify, the so-called “California rule.” That rule, based on a 1955 state Supreme Court decision, is an assumption that public employee pension benefits, once granted, can never be modified, even for future work.”

As well he should. Public employee pensions are starving municipalities of money needed for public services — and that’s during good times. Come the next recession, California will be a slaughterhouse of bankrupt municipalities.

What Brown is doing reminds me of what Joan Darrah, mayor of Stockton 1990-97, did with planning and growth. After yielding to sprawl developers for her first term Darrah, perhaps feeling she’d paid off her political indebtedness, established the Waterfront Revival Task Force, which countered at least to a modest degree the developer driven suburbanism.

Better late than never, in both cases.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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