Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Ten months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed California’s public employee pension system to be “unsustainable” and proposed a very mild, 12-point reform plan.

This week, he embraced a much-weaker version drafted in secrecy by the Legislature’s Democratic leaders, who insisted that it is “a strong proposal” (Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg) and “comprehensive” (Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez).

Brown was only slightly less effusive, calling it a “significant step forward” that will “help to ensure that our public retirement system is sustainable for the long term.”

None of the self-praise is warranted. The plan is mostly fluff, such as eliminating “spiking,” the buying of “airtime” to boost pensions, and pensions for felons, and placing a theoretical cap on salaries qualifying for defined-benefit pensions that will affect only a tiny number of those on the public payroll.

The new plan’s promoters say it will reduce future pension obligations by tens of billions of dollars, but the basis for that assertion is squirrelly, and even if accurate, does little to reduce unfunded liabilities that are at least $250 billion and could be twice as high.

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