Assemblyman Curt Hagman
Posted: 03/20/2011 06:40:57 PM PDT

With many Californians forced to make sacrifices to make ends meet during these harsh times, it is only fair that the representatives you have elected do the same. One way to save taxpayers’ money is to end the gold-plated pensions for politicians.

Given that California’s government pension systems such as the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) are underfunded, we need to find savings wherever we can. According to the bipartisan and independent Little Hoover Commission, the 10 largest public pension plans in California faced a combined shortfall of more than $240 billion in 2010. If you thought dealing with a $26.6 billion state budget deficit sounds daunting, try dealing with one that is 90 times larger.

That is why I introduced Assembly Bill 738, which would prohibit a person publicly elected to office after Jan. 1, 2012, from receiving a government retirement benefit within any pension system at the city, county and state levels. This will apply to all elected officials except judges, whose pensions are constitutionally protected.

The purpose of my legislation is twofold – to save money and to prevent politicians from negotiating pensions that they could benefit from. As many of my constituents pointed out, it is difficult for elected officials to fight for real pension reform when they themselves enjoy generous pensions courtesy of the taxpayers.

You may think that politicians are already prohibited by law from receiving a pension for their years of service, but that is only partially true. The voters did take away pensions from state legislators when they passed term limits in 1990, so I am not personally receiving pension credit for my Assembly tenure. School board members and commissioners also are not receiving pensions thanks to legislation passed in 1994. However, any elected official that does not fall under these categories can receive a pension. A.B. 738 closes that loophole.

Given that the state is legally obligated to cover any shortfall in government pensions, there is no better time for reform. California’s taxpayers do not need more tax dollars diverted from services toward pensions.

Anyone who believes that pensions play no role in our budget problems is living in denial. Some will undoubtedly oppose A.B. 738 because they like receiving a pension at your expense. These people will speak against the bill under the pretense that it will not solve California’s budget problems.

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