Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 11/24/2011 06:10:18 AM PST

The Golden State’s pension systems are fraught with areas of concern.

A report last year by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research said retirement funds for 2.6 million California teachers, state workers and university employees have long-term unfunded obligations totaling as much as $500 billion.

At the center of the attempt to fix the state’s pension system is an Inland Valley lawmaker who faces a difficult election bid next year.

State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair, is co-chairing a bipartisan panel of six state lawmakers – the Joint Legislative Conference Committee on Public Employee Pensions – that will hear the statewide concerns of employers and employees on the issue of pension reform.

“We have to find some way to fix it,” McLeod said in a recent interview.

Committee members said they are expected to examine the current public pensions systems, the efficacy of recent reforms, and options going forward to help bring fiscal stability to the systems in a way that is fair to both workers and the citizens of California.

The next hearing is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 1 at the state Capitol. Another hearing is set for the Bay Area but has not been scheduled.

“I am hopeful that the final outcome of these hearings will be a package that achieves real and measurable reform that has broad support and represents a consensus agreement,” McLeod said.

The committee got to work on Oct. 26 in Carson with a discussion of the condition of the public pension system, including reforms recently implemented at both the state and local level.

Local government representatives discussed some of the actions taken and being considered to reduce and contain costs such as layoffs, reduced benefits, the creation of a second tier of benefits, and the elimination of employer pickup of employee contributions.

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