California Governor Calls Out CalPERS On Pension Tweak

Jerry Brown Oakland rally

Today CalPERS approved 99 types of “special pay”, or additional income that can be included in calculating a worker’s pension.

California Governor Jerry Brown was receptive to most of the “special pay” items—except for one. But it was enough to compel him to send a letter to CalPERS urging the board not to approve the pending changes.

At issue is a section of the CalPERS proposal that allows pension benefits to be increased based on temporary pay increases and ad hoc payments.

That contradicts a section of Jerry Brown’s 2012 reform law which states that pension benefits can only be based on “normal monthly pay”, and not “short-term” pay increases. From Reuters:

Although Calpers approved 99 types of extra pay that can be factored in to a worker’s income when calculating their pension, Brown only objected to one of those: allowing temporary upgrade pay to be counted as permanent, pensionable income.

Brown, a Democrat, sent a letter to Calpers last week asking them not to allow temporary upgrade pay to count toward pensions.

On Wednesday, the Calpers board rejected Brown’s opposition and voted to pass all 99 pay provisions, including that temporary pay hikes can be factored into a final pension.

“Today Calpers got it wrong,” Brown said in a statement. “This vote undermines the pension reforms enacted just two years ago. I’ve asked my staff to determine what actions can be taken to protect the integrity of the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act.”

Read the full letter below, courtesy of the Sacramento Bee:

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[A quick PSA, in case you don’t live in California: Edmund is the legal first name of Gov. Jerry Brown.]

CalPERS Is Proposing 98 Ways To Boost Member Pensions


CalPERS is drafting new regulation that could boost worker pensions, but critics say the rules would fly in the face of much of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012 reform efforts. CalPERS is holding a public hearing on the issue tomorrow (Tuesday August 19) to seek the public’s feedback.

The new regulations could increase pension benefits for many workers by adding 98 new types of “pensionable compensation”—or, in other words, types of pay that can be counted toward pension benefits.

For example, workers would receive pension boosts for holding various professional certifications, for being bilingual or for working at the same job for a long period of time.

[Read the full list of types of pensionable compensation at the bottom of this post].

From a CalPERS press release:

The proposed new regulation is intended to clarify the types of pensionable compensation items that state, public agencies, and school employers report to CalPERS as part of a new member’s retirement benefit. The most common items excluded as pensionable for new PEPRA members are bonuses, uniform allowance, and any ad hoc payments. Members who were hired on or after January 1, 2013 are considered new members under PEPRA.

Compensation that is reportable for classic members is unaffected under the new regulation.

One category of pensionable compensation would be Incentive Pay.

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A few other interesting special pay items:

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As the CalPERS released indicates, these changes would only apply to new hires. But critics say the new rules would directly undermine California 2012 pension reforms, which also only dealt with new hires. From a LA Daily News editorial:

At issue is what counts as income on which pensions are calculated. The 2012 law was clear: Pensions for new employees should be based on their “normal monthly rate of pay or base pay.” Whereas current employees can boost their pension calculations by also including “special compensation” for “special skills, knowledge, abilities, work assignment, workdays or hours, or other work conditions,” the Legislature didn’t include those sorts of extra pay items for new employees.

The hearing over the draft regulations will be held on Tuesday at 9:30 am pacific time.

It will also be live-streamed at

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