national opinion

Monday Column
Carol Platt Liebau

[go to Liebau index]

Latest Column:
Stopping the Meltdown
What Beltway Republicans Need To Do

Subscribe to CRO Alerts
Sign up for a weekly notice of CRO content updates.

Jon Fleischman’s
The premier source for
California political news

Michael Ramirez

editorial cartoon

Do your part to do right by our troops.
They did the right thing for you.
Donate Today

CRO Talk Radio
Contributor Sites
Laura Ingraham

Hugh Hewitt
Eric Hogue
Sharon Hughes
Frank Pastore
[Radio Home]

















Tim Leslie - Contributor

Tim Leslie represents California’s 4th Assembly District.

Pension Payoff
Will California every save money?...
[Tim Leslie] 6/28/04

Laboring under a crushing $14 billion deficit, California has a chance to save $11 million this year and $216 million over next 20 years. Yet because of inaction by legislative Democrats, who have only days left to decide their course, we may fritter away this opportunity to save money.

At issue is a sweetheart deal given by then Governor Gray Davis and Democrats to such state employees as milk testers and tax auditors. Under this agreement, these workers would receive the same pension benefits as those who deal directly with public safety and who spent every day of their careers putting their lives on the line. To be sure, tax auditors and billboard inspectors perform valuable work for this state's citizens, but they are not public safety employees.

The union that negotiated this devil's bargain in 2002 is the California Union of Safety Employees (CAUSE), which donated $500,000 to Gov. Gray Davis and $500,000 to other top Democrats that year. "All of this was the result of buying Gray Davis," said former union lawyer Sam McCall, who helped write SB 183 (Burton, D-San Francisco), the measure that effected the deal. "We would not have got this done if we had not shoved a lot of money his way."

Unfortunately, SB 183 bypassed rules requiring each department to determine which employees meet the conditions for the generous benefits. These criteria clearly say they only go to those who directly protect the public safety or work with inmates and state mental patients. SB 183 gave workers the better pensions, irrespective of what they did for a living.

As respected non-partisan columnist Dan Walters recently wrote, these were "benefits that were obviously bought, not earned."

The good news is that there is a measure, SB 9, which would repeal this horrible mistake. The bad news is that legislative Democrats have stalled it, and we only have until June 30 to pass the law and forward it to the governor for his signature. The next day, the bogus pension deal goes into effect.

Thus, Democrats are caught between overwhelming public opinion and conniving labor unions that can write them $500,000 checks at the drop of a hat. As Keanu Reeves famously asked Dennis Hopper in the movie Speed, "What do you do?"

Well, the obvious answer is to do the right thing. But there is a larger question in play here: What message does this send if the Legislature balks on this relatively simple, cut-and-dry issue? For instance, there is a proposal to return to the pension agreement that existed for other state employees before 2003. This would, however, require them to contribute an extra 1% from their paychecks.

And what about that behemoth of all state employee unions, that of the prison guards, the CCPOA? Governor Schwarzenegger wants to renegotiate the multi-billion dollar agreement his predecessor worked out with them in return for $12.6 million in campaign contributions. If the Legislature blinks on SB 9, the CCPOA and other unions can rest assured that their cushy benefits are secure. Taxpayers, however, should lose sleep over the implications.

Let's not get the wrong impression: all of us should value the service state employees give us, and these hard working men and women should be compensated with a package that allows them to care for their families and provide for their future. By and large, they have this.

However, compensation packages should be based on fairness and common sense, not sweetheart deals in smoke-filled rooms. Governor Schwarzenegger is right to demand renegotiations.

At a time when the state can ill afford deals that were obtained through highly questionable means, we need to revisit SB 183.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly Labor Committee recently defeated SB 9. Only days are left for the Legislature to take some extraordinary action to make sure this opportunity does not pass us by.

I encourage my Democrat colleagues to understand the crucial nature of this issue and to do the right thing for taxpayers. Otherwise, more stringent cuts will be made to vital public services. Failing to do so, however, will prove yet again that California cannot live within its means. And that is something we really can't afford. CRO




Blue Collar -  120x90
120x90 Jan 06 Brand
Free Trial Static 02
ActionGear 120*60
Free Trial Static 01
Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005