The study’s title, “Going for Broke,” tells you all you need to know about the dire situation the state faces with unfunded pension obligations.
David Crane, the governor’s special advisor on jobs and the economy spelled out the pressure the pension problem will put on general fund spending in today’s Los Angeles Times. Crane argues the lack of reform on pensions rests with a legislature that is controlled by public employee unions. As Crane puts it, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, “Instead of a government of the people, by the people and for the people, we have become a government of its employees, by its employees and for its employees.”
Crane traces the political takeover by the unions to the Dill Act signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 1978 giving the public unions collective bargaining. As the unions power over the legislature has grown the concern is reform on the pension front will be more and more difficult to accomplish.
Reform is not impossible. The City of Vallejo, faced with bankruptcy, has moved toward reform and a two-tiered pension system for new employees.
But the partisan atmosphere in the state legislature has stymied such reform. Moreover, the question is what would Jerry Brown do about the pension crisis if he were elected governor again? Brown signed the original law giving unions more power. Brown recently appealed to the public unions to be his attack dog during the upcoming gubernatorial campaign.
Furthermore, the upcoming state Democratic Convention in Los Angeles is pretty much sponsored by the public employee unions. Take a look at the logos of the sponsors on the Democratic Party’s convention web page. Practically all are public unions.
Ask yourself how Brown and the Democrats will lead the fight for reform of the pension system and what government services will be cut or taxes raised if reform does not occur.