CalPERS Responds To Criticism Of Plan To Boost Pensions

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CalPERS is holding a hearing today seeking public comment on a set of potential rules that would open the door for many workers to increase their pensions.

The rules would introduce 98 new forms of “pensionable compensation”, or income that is counted when calculating a worker’s ultimate pension benefit.

But many interested parties didn’t wait until the hearing to voice their opinions. California Gov. Jerry Brown was among the first to voice his displeasure at the potential rules, as they contradict certain sections of the reform law he passed in 2012.

“This disregards the rule that pensions will be based on normal monthly pay and not on short-term, ad hoc pay increases,” Brown wrote in a letter to the CalPERS board. “I urge the board to vote against these regulations and instead request a new draft that excludes temporary pay upgrades from employee pension calculations.”

Other big players weighed in as well. Jon Ortiz writes:

Public pension-change advocates, including Democratic San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, say the proposal is another sign that the union-dominated CalPERS board “is doing what they can to resist reforms. … They’re in favor of anything that expands benefits.”

Elk Grove City Manager Laura Gill said including temporary upgrade pay “really does invite spiking” and threatens to erode savings from pension changes the Sacramento suburb has enacted the past couple of years, such as city employees paying their share of pension costs.

If such practices became standard, “it would put us backward from all the work we’ve done to have a sustainable and sound pension system,” Gill said.

Unions responded as well, but they were receptive to CalPERS’ plan. From the Sacramento Bee:

Mike Durant, president of the union-backed Peace Officers Research Association of California, dismissed those kinds of concerns. If a city or the state needs pension relief, he said, “they can bargain it.”

Instead, he said, government employers expect CalPERS to save them from themselves.

“They want to put it on the backs of someone else to make those decisions rather than making it themselves,” he said.

You can bet CalPERS is listening to all this. And the pension fund responded to the criticisms in a statement sent out to numerous newspapers, including the Daily Bulletin:

CalPERS has approached this issue with full transparency and sought stakeholder input along the way, including employee and employer feedback. The purpose of the public hearing is to seek even greater input on what compensation should and should not be counted toward pensions.

While reasonable people may disagree about what aspects of a public servant’s compensation should count toward a pension, an editorial should stick to the facts and not try to inflame readers with inaccurate terms like pension spiking. Pay for a service is still compensation at the end of the day. Our staff made a recommendation based on a good-faith interpretation of the law. If changes need to be made, we welcome the public’s input.

CalPERS is holding a hearing today to gather the public’s comments on the proposed rules. Once the hearing is wrapped up, the full CalPERS board will vote on the rules, likely on Wednesday.

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