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September 5th, 2012 7:36 pm
Update on California’s Pension Reform Deal

Steven Greenhut in City Journal has an update on California’s nascent pension reform deal:

Despite its relatively modest contents, AB 340 has been bitterly denounced by public-employee unions. “The pension proposals outlined today represent a retreat from collective bargaining and basic principles of retirement security,” said one firefighter-union official in a press statement. Union officials obviously don’t want the state capping pensions. The unions would prefer to work out “reforms” at the collective-bargaining table, where they exert the most power and often control both sides of the negotiation (union officials and city staffers sometimes belong to the same union, and many city council members get elected with union support).

But just because the plan is angrily opposed by unions doesn’t make it a good one. “Let’s be clear,” said assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, “the Democrat proposal is no substitute for serious reforms to get our public employee pension crisis under control. This is no time for the liberal majority to pat themselves on the back and say the job is done.” Indeed, AB 340, designed mainly as a fig leaf for a big tax increase, won’t fix the state’s massive pension problem. It’s a minor reform at best—and sadly par for the course with this governor and legislature.

All true.  But I submit there is still a silver lining.

Last week I posted some thoughts on this issue.  In those remarks I said that any real reform is welcome, if only to set the table for larger, more substantive changes in the future.

While more can and should be done to address California’s $500 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, this kind of “fig leaf” is welcome, if inadequate.

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