Sacramento's double standard about pension reform 

The Friday deadline for the state Legislature to pass a pension-reform measure is fast approaching, and the aptly named “special” committee on public pensions has allotted a whole two hearings on the matter next week.

This can’t come a moment too soon for Stockton City Manager Bob Deis, who wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown last week pleading for statewide pension reform. Deis warned Brown that if a bankruptcy judge forces Stockton to ratchet down pension benefits, there will be an exodus from the city’s police department and the result will be “municipal chaos.”

Only if the rest of the state is also subject to cuts can this be avoided, he said. “We can’t afford to be outliers from the industry standard for cities,” reads Deis’ letter.

The only pension reform so far is a bill passed with bipartisan support in the state Senate on Thursday that would expand the ability of families to receive death benefits when police and firefighters die 10 years or more after retirement. The bill was cleverly maneuvered to avoid financial review so we don’t know exactly how much it will cost cities such as Stockton, but the Assembly budget analyst estimates the cost at “potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” That same report states that “the County of Los Angeles alone places the cost of complying with this bill at $20 million annually.”

It will sail through the Assembly and be on Brown’s desk in no time. 

Adding insanity to injury is the fact that the same Democrats who voted for the death benefit legislation just failed to pass a constitutional amendment preventing the enactment of any ballot initiative that would result in a “net increase in state or local government costs” unless the initiative also “provides for additional revenues in an amount that meets or exceeds the net increase in costs.”

I guess only the Legislature is allowed to do that.

Some jobs more equal than others in Capitol

On Tuesday, the state Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would extend the state’s motion picture tax credit until 2017. It was introduced by state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Los Angeles, and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

During the debate on the measure, Democrats congratulated themselves for creating so many jobs with this tax break, while Republicans took turns saying, “Yes, we know. Cutting taxes is good for jobs. That’s what we have been trying to tell you!” Republicans also called for the extension of tax breaks in other industries. And by “other industries” they meant: ones that aren’t unionized and major donors to the Democrats.

The best speech by far was from state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-San Diego. After wondering aloud why we don’t give tax credits to spur economic growth in areas such as aerospace and biotech, he said, “We need to do more of this. We need to send a clear signal across the board that jobs are important for all Californians. But most importantly in my district.”

There is an honest man in Sacramento. I stand corrected.

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Melissa Griffin

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