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ELECTION 2000 / State Proposals

A Vote for Fair Retirement

October 08, 2000

State legislators got a double whammy when California voters passed Proposition 140 a decade ago to impose strict term limits on members--six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate. Another provision got far less attention at the time: Proposition 140 also wiped out the Legislature's lucrative retirement system. Since 1990, state lawmakers have had no pension plan whatsoever.

That would be corrected by Proposition 33 on the Nov. 7 ballot. Proposition 33, a proposed constitutional amendment put on the ballot by the lawmakers themselves, would allow legislators to participate in the California Public Employees' Retirement System on the same basis as more than 800,000 other state and local government workers, including school janitors. Members would pay roughly 5% of their salaries into the system. The contribution would be matched by the state at a rate expected to run about 4.5%, although it's zero this year because of high earnings on CalPERS investments.

Proposition 33 is a modest and reasonable proposal and deserves the support of California voters.

Opponents from taxpayer groups say state legislators make a hefty salary of nearly $100,000 and should use their own money to save for retirement. Actually, they would be using their own money to participate in the plan. It's facile to oppose anything that is seen as a benefit to politicians, but people should not be penalized for serving in public office.

Proposition 33 is not some sneaky rip-off by the Legislature. Many members interrupt successful careers to enter public service. It is a matter of fairness and equity to put them on a retirement plan on the same terms available to hundreds of thousands of other public workers. Vote yes on Proposition 33.

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