Gov. Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform In October. His proposed overhaul of public pensions is a major step toward political reality. (Max Whittaker, Getty Images / October 30, 2011)

By George Skelton Capitol Journal
October 31, 2011, 2:42 a.m.

From Sacramento– Gov. Jerry Brown would be the first to admit that rolling out a 12-point pension reform plan is the easy part.

Brown has always belittled the notion of multipoint plans, dismissing them as targets for cheap shots.

Of course, he’s usually most adamant about that when he doesn’t have a plan and is being pressured to produce one.

But Brown is essentially correct. A plan without execution is merely an academic exercise. Plans are a dime a dozen. They can be found in any college faculty lounge. What’s needed is political leadership capable of implementing a plan.

Brown’s proposed overhaul of public pensions is a major step toward fiscal prudence and political reality. The governor should take even bolder strides, affecting current workers more. But that’s unlikely, because he and the Democratic-dominated Legislature are indebted to public employee unions for campaign money.

Republicans, however, also feed at a shared trough: the prison guards union.

Abhorred by special interest financing of politics? Then move to public financing. But that’s even less popular among the masses than generous public employee pensions.

Brown’s pension proposal would be a significant achievement if enacted merely as is.

In brief, it would force most current public employees — state and local, including teachers — to pay more toward their pensions. And it would trim retirement benefits for future employees. They’d receive a pension-401(k)-type mix and their retirement ages would be raised.

Retirement pay, including Social Security, would replace 75% of their salaries. That’s the goal. Still a good haul by private-enterprise standards.

The full retirement age for most new state employees would rise from 63 to 67. Current workers generally can quit and begin drawing partial pensions at 50, with some noted exceptions. Highway patrol officers and prison guards are entitled to full-boat pensions at 50.

“It’s time to fix our pension systems so that they are fair and sustainable,” the governor declared. “This is a program to protect the taxpayers as well as those who work to serve the taxpayers.”

The plan won’t go anywhere, however, unless Brown uses his brawn to shove it through the Legislature. And there wasn’t much indication during the plan’s unveiling that he would.

Brown said some of the right things to reporters: “I intend to work carefully with both parties” and “I’m asking them to take this seriously and get on with it.” But he also emphasized, “I’ve got a lot on my plate coming up.”

He listed them:

• A revenue shortage: Brown seems to be moving toward a ballot initiative to raise income taxes on the wealthy and increase the sales tax.

• Water: He apparently wants to pare down a pork-laden $11.1-billion water bond proposal that the Legislature has placed on the November 2012 ballot.

To read entire story, click here.