Former Lawmaker Targets Public Retirees’ Benefits
A foundation led by former Assembly member Keith Richman on Thursday filed a ballot initiative seeking to overhaul California's retiree health benefits and pension system, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Under the initiative filed by the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, public workers who qualify for Social Security would receive retirement benefits at the same age they become eligible for Social Security, 65 to 67. Such workers also would receive 1% of their highest salary for each year worked, compared with 2% under current regulations.
Retirees who do not qualify for Social Security would receive 1.5% for each year worked, according to the initiative.
The initiative only would apply to public employees hired after July 1, 2009. Benefits for current and retired workers would not be affected.
Richman said his plan would save state and local governments $500 billion over the next three decades. He did not disclose his sources of funding to help qualify the initiative for the ballot.
The initiative is expected to face opposition from public employee unions, which in 2005 blocked a similar proposal by Richman to replace the current pension formula with a 401(k)-style plan.
Aaron McLear, spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), said the Governor's Office had not yet reviewed Richman's initiative. He added, "We welcome all ideas on the table. This is obviously part of the public dialogue."
However, Dave Low, assistant director of governmental relations for the California School Employees Association, said the governor likely will oppose the proposal because it comes before the release of findings of a commission he recently formed to study strategies to address the cost of health benefits and pensions for retired public employees (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 6/22).
The Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission by Jan. 1, 2008, will offer proposals to the governor and Legislature (California Healthline, 4/30).