Tomorrow the Legislature is scheduled to finish voting on the budget and will pat themselves on the back while not addressing California’s most pressing fiscal reform: pensions. This Thursday, the Legislature faces another extremely important deadline.
June 28th is the last day for the Legislature to place initiatives on the November ballot. Why is this deadline so crucial? It is crucial because real pension reform is the critical element necessary to restore fiscal health to our state. And because the Legislature’s credibility on the issue is nil and voters know they must – again – take matters into their own hands.
Two studies underscore the looming fiscal disaster California faces if action is not taken. State-wide the total long term retirement and health costs for public employees’ totaled $593.7 billion dollars two years ago, according to a newly released study by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Pew Center for the States. A pension study by the Stanford institute for Economic Policy research (SIEPR) found that delaying pension reform costs California $3.4 million a day.
These are staggering figures with completely tangible consequences. June elections in the cities of San Diego and San Jose saw 66% and 70% voter-approved pension reform measures pass. The burden of meeting unfunded pension costs jeopardized the cities’ ability to provide other essential services, such as police and firefighters.
The voters in these two cities have spoken loud and clear: it is time to fix our broken public pension system. Now, they are watching to see if Sacramento politicians have heard them. The Legislature has until June 28 to put real pension reform before the voters this November. But with that deadline about to expire, we are left to see if the Legislature shows the leadership needed to solve California’s $593.7 billion unfunded pension liability, reduce costs to taxpayers and end abuses such as spiking and double dipping.
Governor Jerry Brown’s pension reform was introduced by Senate and Assembly Republicans in February. It has not had a single hearing, nor a single Democratic co-author. The Democrats in the Legislature just hastily passed an incomplete (and unbalanced) $92 billion dollar budget that no one had seen, let alone read, in order to get paid. Surely they can put vital pension reform on the ballot before the deadline, since all of them know full well what real pension reform entails.
Voters have grown tired of the excuses by Sacramento politicians that they’ll address reform ‘sometime in the future’ and are equally wary of anything the Legislature might pass and slap a ‘reform’ label on. The Legislature’s credibility on the issue is beyond repair. Voters know that pension reform needs to be on the ballot where they can make an informed decision on whether it is real reform or not, and vote accordingly. In the meantime the June 28th deadline looms.