BY JIM MILLER
Published: 10 July 2012 06:01 AM
SACRAMENTO — A large share of California’s electorate supports capping pensions for government workers and raising their retirement age, a new survey shows.
Yet any Capitol pension deal this summer is unlikely to have a significant effect on how voters decide Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-increase measure this November, according to the Field Poll.
The survey shows little change in voter attitudes toward government workers’ retirement benefits compared to a few years ago. Thirty-seven percent think they are too high, 36 percent think they are about right, 17 percent believe they are too low, and 10 percent have no opinion.
But two pension changes have a clear bipartisan consensus in today’s poll: 67 percent of voters favor establishing an upper limit when calculating public employees’ pension benefits and 60 percent want to increase the minimum age at which public employees can receive pension benefits.
“At a minimum, that kind of reform is something the public would like to see enacted,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.
There is less support for other pension-rollback proposals. For example, a slim majority of voters back replacing public workers’ defined-benefit retirements with a hybrid system of 401(k)-style benefits and a smaller guaranteed payout.
In Inland Southern California, Riverside County recently wrapped up contract talks with all its labor unions that require employees to pay more toward their retirement. New hires will also get less in pensions. In exchange, the county agreed to raise workers’ pay.
In San Bernardino County, officials have sought concessions from employees in which they would pay a greater share of their retirement costs, but the two largest unions representing county employees have refused so far. Unlike Riverside County, San Bernardino County has its own retirement system.
Brown released a pension-overhaul plan earlier this year. Since then, though, the Democrat-controlled Legislature and the governor have been unable to reach a final deal. Negotiations continue, with the legislative year ending Aug. 31.
Last week, a Field Poll showed that 54 percent of voters supported Brown’s November measure — but about a fifth of the “yes” voters said they would be less inclined to back the tax measure if the Legislature authorized money to build a high-speed rail system.
The Legislature did just that on Friday, July 6.
Legislative leaders, though, downplayed the approval’s possible effect on the governor’s initiative. More important to voters, they said, would be lawmakers’ acting to change the pension system.
Today’s survey suggests otherwise. Only 11 percent of “no” voters would be more likely to support the initiative if there was “legislative approval of pension reform,” according to the Field Poll. It would have no effect on how the vast majority of voters view the ballot measure.
To read entire story, click here.