Wednesday, March 8, 2017
[Contra Costa County] Borenstein is right, county pensions are out of control
Blog note: this letter to the editor references grand jury reports.
Dan Borenstein is absolutely correct; California’s public pension systems carry huge unfunded debts and cry out for fair and sensible reform. (“Gov. Brown’s pension reform effort is coming up very short,” Feb. 5)
The Contra Costa civil grand jury, on which I served for two years, issued two important reports on needed pension reform in our county. Each report recommended that the Board of Supervisors seek legal review of a peculiar California court doctrine that blocks meaningful pension reform. The doctrine has prevented the county from negotiating with its employees to reduce the level of pension benefits they would earn in future years. That gives pension benefits a privileged status in collective bargaining because all other elements of employee compensation are negotiated for each contract period.
How big is the problem? The county carries more than $1 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and the 2014-2015 grand jury pension report found that a modest reduction in future pension benefit accruals could save the county nearly $100 million a year.
Two appellate courts have now opened a window for review of the peculiar California pension doctrine. The county’s Board of Supervisors should seize the opportunity to advance fair and sensible pension reform by filing briefs with the California Supreme Court in support of the appellate court rulings.
February 14, 2017
East Bay Times
Letter to the editor by Michael Moore, Diablo