All posts by OC Progressive

Chevron Leads Effort to Buy Election for Oily Tom in AD-69

Oily corporate money is flowing into an Orange County Assembly race, as Late Independent Expenditures push the fortunes of DINO “Oily Tom” Daly.

The primary vehicle is JOBSPAC, A BI-PARTISAN COALITION OF CALIFORNIA EMPLOYERS, which spent a whopping $291,578.25 between May 5th and May 19th to support ConservaDem Tom Daly, County Clerk Recorder and former Anaheim Mayor in AD-69, which is the only majority Democratic district in Orange County.

Daly is in the mold of other OC “Democrats” like Lou Correa, squarely in the pocket of developers, insurance companies and the local corporate giants like Disney. Daly got all of three votes in the party’s pre-endorsement caucus, no votes at the DFA endorsement meeting, scant support at the Orange County Young Democrats endorsement meeting, yet was able to block progressive candidate Julio Perez from getting the party endorsement as local electeds Correa and Solorio voted for no endorsement.

The biggest player in JOBS PAC is Chevron, which contributed $375,000 of the $524,000 raised in the second half of 2011. Chevron also contributed the maximum direcly to Daly’s campaign, but Daly’s anemic fund-raising obviously wasn’t going to be enough to buy this election. Chevron has been joined by some of the usual dirty suspects who have pressing issues in front of the legislature. Phillip Morris kicked in $50,000. Farmers Insurance has arrived late to the party with $150,000 contributed last week. The California Charter Schools Association PAC pumped in  $25,000 last week.

There’s plenty of late money that we expect to see spent in negative mail against Julio Perez, the progressive candidate in the most Latino district in the state. Julio may be the most dangerous threat to corporate interests on the ballot. He’s a labor organizer who is smart, well-educated, and avowedly progressive, earning support not just from teachers, nurses, and firefighters, but also from groups like the California League of Conservation Voters.

Julio is supported by a small army of grass roots volunteers, an Independent Expenditure campaign by organized labor, and every local progressive, while Daly gets his local support from Disney’s SOAR PAC, the staunchly right-wing OC Tax group, and the Orange County Business Council.

The JobsPAC campaign has been working with Big Lies, including a mailer to Republicans alleging that the sole Republican candidate has dropped out of the race.

Chevron has also supported unemployed Santa Ana Council Member Michele Martinez, a somewhat clueless candidate best known for her inadvertent interview on a train from Sacramento where she boasted of big forthcoming IE’s by Indian casinos. If the top two result comes down to Martinez vs Daly, Chevron and their corporate cronies win big.

It’s the ugly side of the top-two primary, and it’s what the corporate interests hoped for when they campaigned for it. Spend big to take out any progressive, and be happy with a true corporate candidate or someone who can easily be bought.

Update Today’s reports show another $117,000 in Late Independent Expenditures supporting Tom Daly, this time with the bulk of the money coming from the National Realtors Political Action Committee funneled through their California affiliate.

Greg Diamond at the Orange Juice Blog writes

“The National Association of Realtors out of Chicago,” I hear you ask, because you are the kind of reader who wants to know who is jumping into our local races with the force of a herd of elephants, “who are they?”  I’m glad you asked!  It’s the trade association that has, literally, trademarked the term “Realtor” in this country.  (In other countries, it’s a generic term.)  What’s their political issue?  They want to boost the housing market by – wait for it – opposing regulation of the financial services industry!

That’s right – these are the people who don’t want to solve the problems of the collapse of the poorly regulated financial sector (and its mortgage fraud and foreclosure abuse, about which they might know a little themselves), and they way they want to do it is to dump literally $250,000 so far into making sure (if they can – and they can’t) that Tom Daly beats Julio Perez for a single Assembly seat.

Some Budget payback for the OC

What do Orange County Republican legislators get when not a single Republican works constructively towards a responsible budget solution?

Well they don’t get pension reform, a budget cap, or any help in their plan to gut the state’s clean air laws.

And, in a nice little piece of political payback, in a trailer bill, the State took away 48 million a year that had been going to the county as part of a package to pay back loans issued after the 1994 bankruptcy.

There is much hand-wringing, with threats of lawsuits from blowhards like Assembly member “Spanky” Don Wagner (R,Newport Beach) and State Senator Lou Correa (D?, Santa Ana), who used a previous budget crisis to extort money for Orange County.

So the County will have to find 48 million in cuts, which will hit the Sheriff and the district attorney’s office hard.

In other news, Governor Brown evoked chuckles, smiles, and outright guffaws by appointing OCEA Executive Director Nick Berardino to the Orange County Fair Board. Berardino and OCEA are locked in manichean legal and political battles with Costa Mesa Uber Alles Council Members Mensinger and Righeimer who issued lay-off notices to half of Costa Mesa’s workers (mostly OCEA members). The Orange County Fair, located in Costa Mesa, is directly across the street from Costa Mesa City Hall.

Even in the worst budget, there’s a little Schadenfreude.

Ideologues in Huntington Beach Reject Pension Savings, Opt for Fire Department Cuts

A periodic update on the Republican war against public employees in the OC

Is Huntington Beach following the Costa Mesa train to Crazy Town, opting for confrontation instead of common sense with their employees?

On Monday, May 2nd, the Huntington Beach City Council, in closed session, voted against a proposal that would save the City almost $1.3 million in pension costs over the next two years and would also create a second pension tier for future public safety employees.

On May 3rd, Council Member Devin Dwyer was telling city employees that if they hadn’t been there very long, they should start looking for another job. He also said that negotiations with the Fire Association had broken down, only to be quickly  corrected by a representative of that group, who expressed an interest in continuing to talk.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Orange County right wing politics, where ambitious young pols like Don Hansen and Matt Harper seem poised to try to get some of the publicity that Jim Righeimer has been garnering in Costa Mesa. Term limits will open up an Assembly, State Senate and County Supervisor seat, and the players want to be seen as pension fighters and union busters to appeal to the hard core of Republican primary voters.

Pictured is the Women’s Club Fire one of four major fires among a total of 36 fire calls in Huntington Beach in April. During the last two weeks, Huntington Beach also had a fatal fire, a fire where 2 victims were rescued with a ladder from a second story window, and a multi-million dollar home fire.

As Mayor Pro Tem Don Hansen said on his Facebook page during the election,

“Let’s take our city back! If you see a police car or fire truck on the mail – that’s code for “union owned” We need taxpayer advocates not union puppets now more than ever!”

Mailers supporting Hansen’s endorsed candidates echoed the attacks on public safety employees and particularly their pensions.

After three months of bargaining, the Huntington Beach Fire Association thought they had a deal that would save Huntington Beach $640,000 a year over each of the next two years. The proposed side letter to their existing agreement would also change the retirement formula for new hires to lower pension costs in the future. After three months of negotiations with staff, Fire Association President Darrin Witt felt that “we had met all of the Council’s goals set out in the strategic planning session at the beginning of the year.”

Instead of taking two scheduled raises, one of which had already been postponed for 18 months,  sworn fire officers would apply that money to their pensions, increasing their pension contribution from 2.25% of their income to 6.75% of their income.

In return, the Firefighters asked for guaranteed staffing levels so that they wouldn’t have to cut the number of paramedics and engine companies that were available to respond to emergencies.  

As the Council kept moving the goalposts, the paramedics and fire fighters included a budget trigger which would void the guaranteed staffing levels if revenues drop, expenses rise unexpectedly, or if CalPERS increases pension rates.

Monday,  May 2, in closed session, the Huntington Beach City Council voted against the savings, moving instead towards further service cuts that would increase response times. Cutting the budget could mean service cuts that might idle one of the eight paramedic engines or one of the two ladder trucks. Budget cuts could also reduce availability of one of the cross-staffed specialized engines. Do you cut one of the paramedic engines which respond to over 12,000 9-1-1 Medical calls a year, or partially idle one of the two ladder trucks which have the ability to put firemen at roof level for the 375 structure fires a year and which also carry additional equipment like the “Jaws of Life”?

Even without more personnel cuts to HB Fire, the annexation of Sunset Beach, coupled with fewer available units for mutual aid in surrounding cities, will put pressure on response times in Huntington Beach. The Fire Department has already reduced six full time employees, including a Batallion Chief, after the City’s revenues dropped substantially during the Great Recession.  

In  neighboring Costa Mesa, it is  Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer who pushes the party line, with staunch ideologue Steve Mensinger at his side, and a bumbling, ineffectual Mayor following along.  Their hasty decision to issue layoffs to half the City has made Costa Mesa a laboratory for right wing political experiments in California, with clear results as the continued exodus of police officers, firefighters and management is crippling the City.

In HB, it’s Mayor Pro Tem Don Hansen calling the shots, with Republican Central Committee member Matt Harper, and former Central Committee member Devin Dwyer as comrades. All three are close allies  of party boss Scott Baugh, a lobbyist and perennial meddler in Surf City politics.  Joe Carchio plays the role of bumbling, ineffectual Mayor, whose deal to become Mayor a year ahead of schedule has been repeatedly questioned.

left to right, Mayor Pro Tem Don Hansen, Council Members Matt Harper and Devin Dwyer

Don Hansen, his Red County buddy Chip Hanlon, and their Tea Party allies were big losers in the 2010 election. Two Team Hansen candidates who paid Hansen’s wife’s consulting business, Red Zone Strategies, lost in the 2010 election.  Measure O, an initiative which would have shifted money away from public safety, also lost decisively.

Hansen, Harper, and Dwyer are seen as the core who have walked away from the deal that would reduce the City’s current and future pension costs, forcing service cuts instead of compromise.

Council Member Joe Shaw, elected in 2010 without support from the fire union, refused to comment on what happened during closed session, but indicated that he strongly supported the recommendations which the City received from their pension consultant, John Bartel.

“We hired an expert who recommended that we work towards a second, lower pension tier for all new hires and move toward getting employees to pick up a greater share of their pensions while holding salaries down. That is exactly what the Fire Association proposed, and it could have been a model for our negotiations with all of our employees.”

The public needs to see this choice debated in public, not hidden behind closed doors. Writing at Chip Hanlon’s Red County, Don Hansen seemed to agree as he expressed his love for country music

One effective strategy is to adopt a set of financial policies that are debated publicly.  These policies are set to guide the labor negotiations prior to commencement.  For example, you could adopt a policy that says “The goal of all labor negotiations will be to increase the employee’s contribution to pension costs.”  In Huntington Beach, we recently gave direction to negotiate the elimination of pending salary increases by the end of February. By taking a public vote in a meeting keenly observed by many of the union leaders, it sends a signal that there is a solid vote for such a solution.

By setting a more transparent policy goal prior to the commencement of labor negotiations, elected officials become more accountable to the ultimate result. Further, if your community leaders are not committed to fiscally sustainable labor policy their position will be publicly vetted as well. The economic consequences of these decisions are too great to keep them hidden.

Because no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.

There are three simple questions for the Council Members who rejected the Fire Department’s concessions.

What policy are you advancing by refusing exactly the type of pension reform that your own expert recommends?

When are you going to have the public debate on whether the residents and businesses in Huntington Beach want to sacrifice response times for your ideology?

Are you looking for sustainable budget solutions or just pandering to Republican primary voters so you can get some of the attention that Jim Righeimer has been hogging?

What Would Real Regulatory Reform Look Like?

You can’t get within fifty yards of a Republican in California without hearing a salvo about getting government off the back of business in order to create jobs. Of course, when you look at their most recent proposals, they are really talking about gutting environmental regulations to reward major campaign contributors in the utility, extraction, telecom, and development industries.

But they do have a point.

The regulatory system in California sucks. California government from top to bottom is too fragmented, disjointed, and decentralized. Getting anything done takes too long and costs too much, and it’s been getting worse as the Great Recession has led to the Great Evisceration of government.

What would real regulatory reform look like, and how would we get there?

As a background, I am the kind of geek who spent a Saturday morning at a study session by MWDOC on streamlining environmental regulation.

I’ve used CEQA to delay a general plan, and as a Council Member, I have voted for and against EIR’s. I’ve looked at developing a challenging piece of property I own in the Tahoe National Forest. I read EIR’s and Mitigated Negative Decs for the fun of it, working backwards from the Appendices, and I know how to work a scoping session.

Really, how can the state of California simultaneously require that local planning agencies cut greenhouse gas emissions with better coordination of land use and public transportation while the state and local transit agencies are hacking away at existing systems?

But there are some general principles that could be implemented over time with some real leadership and a comprehensive effort that brought all parties to the table.

Many Different Problems

The problems are myriad. For most businesses, government regulation starts at the local planning counter, where

A Sustained Conversation

Let’s start with the first, and most important observation. There is no midnight deal in the legislature that will fix the problems with

Collaboration is Key

If you talk to someone guiding a major project, you will quickly discover that the first word on their lips is collaboration, and particularly early collaboration. CEQA and the other permitting requirements for major projects is a stunningly inefficient process for creating paper and shuffling it around. Every agency wants to be last in line to comment or approve, and the conditions demanded by one agency may require recirculation of an EIR so that other agencies could comment.

Red County Publisher Accused of Fraud by SEC

In another stunning blow to a reeling California Republican Party, Red County publisher Chip Hanlon was served with a harsh and detailed order by the SEC. The order alleges fraud and misrepresentation, with repeated failures to follow other orders to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative judgments. Hanlon’s Delta Partners claimed over a billion dollars in assets under management, while the actual assets were below 25 million, and as low as nine million.

Red County grew from Matt Cunningham’s local Red County blog in Orange County to be a major communication tool for Republicans, with a national edition, regional editions, and seven local versions just in California. The blog was considered important enough that Meg Whitman paid Red County $110,000 for Hanlon’s services. Red County describes itself as among the most elite and powerful political websites in existence.

Hanlon is closely allied with existing Orange County Republicans like lobbyist and OCGOP chair Scott Baugh and lobbyist Curt Pringle. He has also been in step with rising leaders like Don Hansen in Huntington beach and Jim Righeimer in Costa Mesa.


As of this morning, still no comment at Red County, although Chip Hanlon’s bio has disappeared into the memory hole. Flash Report is still strangely quiet. Surprisingly, the best mainstream story so far is at the Orange County Register, where the story came from excellent real estate reporter, Jon Lansner, instead of the sycophantic political writers.

Below the fold, read sections of the actual SEC order.



   13. In August 2009, Delta’s financial condition was seriously impaired because it had minimal liquid assets and several overdue bills. On November 13, 2009, Delta informed Commission examination staff by letter that it was “in the process of communicating with all clients on this matter and will have completed this process by December 9, 2009.” However, contrary to Delta’s representations, Hanlon never disclosed Delta’s financial condition to any clients.

   14. On June 28, 2010, a default judgment was entered against Delta and Hanlon in a lawsuit filed by one of Delta’s clients relating to Delta’s advisory services. The lawsuit alleged breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, failure to supervise, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract, all relating to Hanlon and Delta’s activities as investment advisers. Among other things, the plaintiff claimed that Delta and Hanlon (i) did not follow plaintiff’s investment guidelines and objectives, and (ii) failed to disclose certain conflicts of interest. The judgment ordered Delta and Hanlon to pay $353,706 indamages. Neither Delta nor Hanlon has satisfied the judgment. In addition, Delta did not disclose the existence of this judgment to Delta’s clients or its precarious financial condition as a result of the unsatisfied judgment, even though it was required to do so.

   15. In June 2010, a FINRA arbitration panel ordered Hanlon to pay compensatory damages of $272,290 and $5,500 in fees arising from a complaint against him alleging breach of contract, slander, and fraud. Hanlon failed to comply with this arbitration award and consequently on June 29, 2010 FINRA suspended Hanlon from acting in any registered capacity. Delta did not disclose this disciplinary action to its clients, even though it was required to do so.

Who Funds the Pension Chicken Littles?

We keep hearing the clucking of the Chicken Littles who are telling us that the sky is falling; California has a pension crisis, or a pension tsunami that will drown us all. Real long-term problems that need immediate attention are grossly exaggerated, with the a series of anti-employee talking points validated by allegedly independent groups, with patient stenography from most of our media.

It’s hard to read a news article or watch a TV news story about pensions in California without hearing from Marcia Fritz (pictured receiving an award from John Coupal, standing at the Tea Party Patriots podium) or Dan Pelissier. They are frequently described as “activists”, but a little research demonstrates that Fritz’ anti-pension California Foundation for Fiscal Reform has an advisory panel of far-right operatives and ideologues. And Pelissier’s Californians For Fiscal Responsibility has a web address that links directly to the CFFR home page.

Where do they get their money?

Capitol Weekly tried to follow the money in Pension reform is lucrative for former Capitol insiders.

Meanwhile, there has been some speculation about where Fritz’s group got the money for the contract after she got up at a pension reform conference hosted by the Bay Area Council on March 10 and mentioned a “large out-of-state donor.” She declined to identify the donor.

I would speculate on the identity of that out-of-state donor, but Charles Koch is getting pretty tired of all the publicity. He really preferred it when he was part of a secret billionaire’s club taking tax deductions to fund dozens of “non-profit” organizations that advanced a reactionary message.

Below the fold, we’ll look at CFFP’s Advisory Panel.

Directly from their website, here’s the Advisory Board for this 501(c)3 foundation that has claimed to be non-partisan. You’ll see the usual suspects.

And don’t forget that for Republicans, anti-pension rhetoric is the only issue where California voters agree with them at all.

Mike Arno

Arno Political Consultants

(Whether you need to deliver “volunteers” to public hearings, write letters to the editor, or get a million signatures, APC is your conservative consulting firm. APC was the firm PG&E used to get the signatures for their initiative to fight green energy.)

Scott Baugh

Former Republican Leader, California Assembly

(Currently a highly-paid lobbyist and Chair of the Orange County GOP.

Dan Pelissier was his chief advisor when he was Republican Assembly leader)

Fran Blackney

Clovis Chamber of Commerce

(Fran is the “Business Advocate” for the Chamber)

Ted Costa

People’s Advocate

(Board member and chief executive officer of People’s Advocate, a California-based advocacy group attempting to suspend California’s California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32. Costa is also in charge of People’s Advocate’s PAC.

Costa filed the petition and “Drove the 2003 California recall election” against then-Governor Gray Davis. Costa and Howard Kaloogian “helped get the Davis Recall off the ground before the professionals took over,” Daniel Weintraub wrote in the Sacramento Bee.)

Jon Coupal

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

(Right, the folks who brought you Proposition 13 in a campaign funded by apartment owners. Now they demand a referendum on pensions with another minority clause)

Kris Hunt

Contra Costa County Taxpayers Association

John Moorlach

Orange County Supervisor / 2nd District

(Moorlach has pushed a multi-million dollar lawsuit attempting to roll back pensions granted by previous Orange County Republican Supervisors. Multiple attorneys refused to take the case, and it has lost at the appellate level.)

Richard Rider

San Diego Tax Fighters

(An organization that shares a home address with the Libertarian Party of

San Diego, and shows no meetings or boards.)

Marc Roberts

Associated Pension Consultants

Reed Royalty

Orange County Taxpayers Association

(OCTax draws its Board from the developers, lobbyists, energy companies.)

Lew Uhler

National Tax Limitation Committee

(Uhler and NLTC were the go-to guys for tobacco companies in developing astroturf organizations, and continue to follow the money.)

Republicans Demand Expansion of Minority Veto to Pensions and It’s on Like Donkey Kong

Warning: This diary may contain YELLING at Bob Dutton and criticism of Republicans that might hurt legislators’ feelings. If you are a Republican sufferring from male menopause, please strap yourself securely into your fainting couch.

When Jerry Brown offered a pension reform plan on Thursday, Bob Dutton responded with his newest ransom note. Most tellingly, he demanded that the people be allowed to vote to expand the Republican minority veto..

Senate Republicans believe taxpayers should be protected by a 2/3rd super majority vote of the Legislature to change the salary and benefits of public employees.

Republicans are now admitting that they they are so impotent and their party is so damn unpopular that they don’t expect to every be a majority party again. Instead, they want one more constitutional amendment to give them one more minority veto in the legislature. Maybe, just maybe they can hang onto one house for a few more cycles.

These are the same Republicans who prevented Californians from  voting in June to extend taxes by a majority vote.  And the tax extension wasn’t permanent, but instead had a sunset date.

It’s interesting that Dutton prefaced his new ransom list with polling results, confirming that Republicans understand that pension-bashing is the only issue where they have any support from California voters. Without this issue, their platform is extraordinarily unpopular with Californians. As a state, we just don’t believe in their program of bashing immigrants, despoiling the environment, destroying public education in favor of private charter schools, and more tax breaks for banksters, the ultra-wealthy, and the corporations that have been exporting our jobs.

Dutton’s statement didn’t indicate that even acceding to his outrageous pension reforms demands would gain him any more votes for putting tax extensions on the ballot. He still may demand his entire ransom list grew of 53 items including big issues like gutting environmental laws. another permanent budget cap in the state constitution, and protecting tax cuts for giant multi-national corporations at the expense of small business.  That ransom list kept going, restoring $23 million in funding to rural state fairs,changing the date of the Presidential primary, protecting property tax breaks for agribusinesses, and preserving the waste and corruption in redevelopment.


With or without Republicans, Brown will pass pension reform.

It’s on Like Donkey Kong

It’s time for Jerry to call his bluff, and let him start getting signatures. But for every initiative the Republicans propose, we need to put out two.

CFT has done polling and is ready to launch a 1% on the 1% tax inintiative, raising taxes on the wealthiest 1% by 1%. (Brilliant move, CFT).

Why not tap into the same populist anger against the bansksters and ceonistas and add a similar initiative that would restore the estate tax in California on the richest 1%, with the money going to support transportation? (No new toll roads, either)

With $4.00 gas, let’s go after the oil companies with an extraction tax specifically to support higher education.

And let’s step up and put a plan to modernize prop 13 on the ballot. Instead of driving seniors from their homes by cutting vital home health services, why not let billionaires like the Irvine Company’s Donald Bren pay the same percentage property tax as the poor schlub who buys one of the Irvine company’s houses.

And finally, let’s follow through with Brown’s plan to devolve more government to local authority like he promised. This is the best way to make the anti-tax districts of Republican legislators really pay for their anti-tax votes.

Jerry Brown Opens a Can of Pension Reform Whoop Ass

As we wrote earlier today,

Anger about overly generous public employee pensions is the only single issue where the Republicans’ messaging polls well.

Without pensions as a rallying cry, Republicans are left with a series of positions that are wildly unpopular with Californians.

As reported in Sacramento Bee, Jerry Brown is taking this issue off the table by proposing the package of pension reforms that he has already agreed to with Republicans.

State workers will howl, especially the public safety unions,  but it will avert a much harsher Republican initiative which is designed to cripple public employee pensions.

Republicans sacrificed their place at the table, and now we will see how Republican legislators play their game as petulant spoilers opposed to everything. They didn’t want to agree to eliminating waste and corruption by eliminating redevelopment and enterprise zones.

Will Republicans really have the gall to oppose pension reforms?

For the Governor’s press release click “read more”.


SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today released the actual bill language of seven separate pension reform measures.

In addition, Brown listed five other specific pension reforms that he is developing. These include a pension benefit cap, limits on post-retirement public employment, hybrid defined contribution/benefit options, an action plan to address CalSTRS unfunded liability, and a measure to change and improve the board governance of CalPERS and CalSTRS.

All 12 of these pension reform measures were presented and discussed in detail with Republican legislators. Talks broke down, however, over other issues.

Brown intends to introduce these pension reforms with or without Republican support.

Information on all twelve pension reforms is available below.

For bill language, please email [email protected].



MARCH 2011

1. Eliminate Purchase of Airtime. Would eliminate the opportunity, for all current and future employee members of all state and local retirement systems, to purchase additional retirement service credit. (RN 14777) (Note Walters, SB 522, would eliminate Air Time)

2. Prohibit Pension Holidays. All California public agencies would be prohibited from suspending employer and/or employee contributions necessary to fund the normal cost of pension benefits. (RN 14777)

3. Prohibit Employers from Making Employee Pension Contributions. All California public agencies would be prohibited from making employee contributions that fund the normal cost of employee retirement benefits in whole or in part. (RN 14777)

4. Prohibit Retroactive Pension Increases. All California public agencies would be prohibited from granting any retroactive pension benefit increases, such as benefit formula improvements that credit prior service. (RN 14777)

5. Prohibit Pension Spiking: Three Year Final Compensation. Final compensation for new employees would be defined as the highest average annual compensation during a consecutive 36 month period. (RN 14777)

6. Prohibit Pension Spiking: Define Compensation as Only Regular, Non-recurring Pay. Compensation means normal rate of pay or base pay. (RN 14777) (Note Simitian, SB 27, would exclude from defined benefit changes in compensation principally for the purpose of enhancing benefits; would place stricter limits on creditable compensation)

7. Felony Convictions. Prohibits payment of pension benefits to those who commits a felony related to their employment. (RN 14777) (*Note Strickland, SB 115, similar prohibition)


Impose Pension Benefit Cap.

Improve Retirement Board Governance

Limit Post-Retirement Public Employment

Hybrid Option

Address CalSTRS Unfunded Liability

Why Republicans Really Wouldn’t Compromise

And no, it’s not their fear of seeing their heads on a stick. And don’t believe that the ransom list had anything to do with their real issues. Restoring 23 million in cuts to rural state fairs? Please.

Republicans never wanted to agree to pension reform because it was the only single issue where the public agrees with them.

If Republicans were at all serious abut solving problems, they would have jumped at the deal that Jerry Brown had negotiated.

There was a  significant package of reforms agreed to by the Brown Administration that would have made a huge dent in California’s pensions problem. And let’s make it clear that there is no crisis but there are some serious problems, particularly with the unsustainable costs of public safety pensions for local governments.

The package that Brown had agreed to would have made major progress towards reducing long-term pension costs and bringing some of the worst-hit pension funds into balance quickly. Judging from the Republicans’ release of their ransom demands, here are the pension areas where there was agreement;

o No purchases of Air-Time (Admin: OK)

o Highest 5-year average. (Admin: Highest 3 year average, with CalSTRS exception for 25 years of service)

o Base pay [salary only – no vacation, overtime, car allowance, uniform allowance, etc.] used for determining final retirement benefits. (Admin: Base benefits on regular, recurring pay)

o No Double-Dipping /Revolving Door (Admin: Allow retired annuitants (cost effective for state), but forbid drawing a full-time salary and a pension from the same employer).

o Cap Final pension amount (Admin: Ok w/Cap of $106K w/COLA – same as Social Security – and additional 12.4% for non-SS employees.)

The biggest of these, if applied statewide, would be the use of regular recurring pay without overtime in calculating pensions rather than adding in overtime. A pension cap would also save real money, and move higher-paid employees into a hybrid plan if they wanted to maintain their income in retirement. Rank and file workers and teachers are protected. Overly generous benefits for public safety come back down.

So why wouldn’t Republicans agree to fix the biggest problem?

The answer is very easy. Anger about overly generous public employee pensions is the only single issue where the Republicans’ messaging polls well.

Without pensions as a rallying cry, Republicans are left with a series of positions that are wildly unpopular with Californians;

   Gutting environmental regulation and increasing off shore drilling

   Bigger tax breaks for the largest corporations at the expense of small business

   Massive cut backs to public education and public safety

   Maintaining a judicial-prison-industrial complex that most Californians want to cut

   Immigrant bashing

Republicans could have eliminated the most obvious form of waste and corruption, redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones. While both of these have supporters, and occasionally have great results, they are tremendously inefficient and frequently just result in a race between cities as to who can come up with the worst deal for taxpayers as they scramble to lure big box retailers, auto malls, the hotels near convention centers, and businesses located in nearby cities.

The savings that local governments would have had on pension reforms would have more than made up for any of their losses from new pet redevelopment projects.

Cynical Republican politicians have never wanted to eliminate waste or corruption or reform pensions. They only want to be able to win enough elections to exercise a minority veto power over what most Californians want.