Governor negotiates pension reform
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration has reached tentative contract agreements that call for pension reform with four state employee unions, including those representing state firefighters and California Highway Patrol officers.
The agreements would require current and future employees in the four unions to pay more of their money into their pension plan and thereby reduce the state’s costs.
The changes would roll back the expanded pension benefits adopted in Senate Bill 400 in 1999 and increase pension contributions to a minimum of 10 percent. Final retirement compensation would be based on the highest three years of wages instead of the highest year to prevent what is known as pension spiking. The reform would also require new hires to work additional years to receive full benefits.
“Governor Schwarzenegger and these four unions are to be commended for staying at the bargaining table and working on solutions to reform the unsustainable public pension system,” said State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, who represents the 36th District, which includes Ramona. “While the agreements will provide immediate and long-term savings to taxpayers, there are statutory changes that still need to be made to ensure there is not an incentive for a contract impasse in the future. I look forward to meeting with the administration and union representatives to review the savings and provisions contained in these proposed contracts.”
The tentative agreements were reached with the California Department of Forestry Firefighters (CDFF), California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP), California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (CAPT) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
The four unions combined represent about 23,000 employees, and the agreements are projected to save the state $72 million in fiscal year 2010-11.
David Barnum, chief financial officer of the Ramona Municipal Water District (RMWD), said the reform measures would impact the salaries of CalFire employees who are contracted to RMWD. The firefighters’ pension contribution would increase from 6 to 10 percent.
“The district is aware of ongoing negotiations and it appears it would be a reduction in cost for CalFire services without a reduction in service levels or quality of services,” said Barnum.
Jon Hamm, chief executive officer of the CAHP, said that under the tentative agreements California Highway patrolmen would see their pension contributions increase from 8 to 10 percent. While CHP officers currently can receive retirement benefits at age 50, the reform would boost that age to 55 for new employees.
Hamm said the union members’ reaction has been positive.
“They’re career employees and they very much like to know what their future holds for them,” he said. “Feedback has been almost unanimously favorable.”
The agreements are subject to ratification by union members and the state legislature. Hamm said ballots will be sent out to union members in a couple of weeks.
The Schwarzenegger administration plans to continue to negotiate with the unions on pension reform measures.
“I am absolutely committed to getting pension reform done because we cannot continue down this unsustainable path that has taxpayers on the hook for $500 billion in debt,” Schwarzenegger said. “I applaud these four unions for stepping up and taking these first steps in helping to reform our state’s out-of-balance pensions and encourage other public employee unions to negotiate on behalf of their members and California taxpayers.”
- How to fix: California’s Pension Crisis
- RMWD revises fire-related fees, employee pension contribution
- County tells state to reform, not borrow
- County seeks governor’s order for full CalFire staffing for fire season
- County asks governor for more firefighting money
Short URL: http://www.ramonasentinel.com/?p=3100