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Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill to trim public pension costs

The new law signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown increases the retirement age for new hires, caps benefits and requires employee contributions.

September 13, 2012|By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times
  • Gov. Jerry Brown has some remarks for the media after signing into law legislation aimed at cutting the state's cost of pensions for state employees.
Gov. Jerry Brown has some remarks for the media after signing into law legislation… (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed legislation aimed at saving taxpayers billions of dollars on public pension costs, but he acknowledged the bill is "not perfect" and said more changes may be needed in the state retirement system.

Brown signed the measure in Los Angeles surrounded by legislative leaders who scaled back the cost-cutting changes he originally proposed. The governor admitted he did not get everything he wanted.

"It's the biggest pension reform ever in the history of the California pension system, and, yes, it's not everything," Brown said. "It's not perfect because we don't deal with perfection in politics. We deal with imperfection.''

Labor leaders criticized the new law as an attack on retirement security and collective bargaining, while conservative groups said it makes barely a dent in the funding shortfalls that face the state's public retirement systems.

"It was a meager reform that falls far short of solving California's brutal pension math problem," said Dan Pellissier, president of the group California Pension Reform.

The new law requires public employees hired starting next year to work longer before they retire with full benefits. The measure also caps benefits for the highest earners and requires that employees eventually pay at least 50% of the contribution toward their retirement plan.

The California Public Employees Retirement System estimates the changes could save up to $55 billion over 30 years. The California State Teachers' Retirement System estimates additional savings of $22.7 billion for the same period.

California's public pension systems estimate that in coming decades they will have to pay about $164 billion more in benefits than they'll have on hand.

Brown said he got what he could from the Legislature this year.

"We're taking as bold a step as the process would allow," Brown said. "And where more is needed down the road, then more will be proposed."

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

Times staff writer Matt Stevens contributed to this report.

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