10/17/2021

California’s golden pension rights need fixing

Quirky as airtime sounds, it’s the edge of a much larger issue on protecting pension rights embodied in the so-called California Rule. For decades, the courts have sided with arguments that pensions can’t be altered without compensation, an approached adopted by a dozen other states.

. . . The political backdrop makes a court decision key because lawmakers don’t want to touch the issue. California is running a $15 billion surplus and Sacramento is in the hands of a Democratic super-majority backed by powerful public employee unions, factors that don’t suggest incoming governor Gavin Newsom is about to launch a pension-cutting crusade.

Brown’s goal is the right one. Pensions need to be matched to what’s balanced and reasonable, not unsustainable pledges. If the economy hits a down cycle, state and local revenues will plummet, saddling government with unpayable bills just as California witnessed a decade ago. The courts should recognize this hovering problem and acknowledge the need to make most changes in pension promises in the future.

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