Assemblyman Keith Richman shares his latest insight from Sacramento. Here’s his report.
My efforts to reform California’s growing pension crisis and my work to create a Citizen’s Assembly are both drawing editorial interest from around the state. As I’ve noted previously, the state pension costs are a growing liability that adds to the state’s structural deficit and continues to consume money that could be spent on other programs such as public safety, education and healthcare.
The San Diego Union Tribune, in a December 16 th, 2005 editorial entitled San Diego’s burden, City pays 80% of general fund to employees, noted, “The real truth is, for years San Diego has been run more for the benefit to its unionized work force than for the benefit of taxpayers. Consider these fundamental facts:
“In Los Angeles, a city with a bloated public payroll and politically muscular bargaining groups, fully 58% of the general fund is consumed by wages and benefits for municipal workers. Yet that is a pittance compared to San Diego, where a staggering 80 percent of the general fund – four out of every five tax dollars you pay – goes into the pockets of city workers in the form of wages or other benefits.”
The editorial noted that personnel costs for San Diego have soared by $234 million, or 52% of the budget while the general fund — in the same period — has grown by only 38 percent, to $857 million.
In another San Diego Union Tribune editorial dated December 15th 2005 entitled, Pension giant should tout reform, not returns, the editorial writers took exception to a CalPERS press release about their returns on investments. “But what the press release didn’t point out is that while CalPERS may be in decent shape overall, dozens and dozens of government bodies which use CalPERS’ services are in big trouble”.
“What’s also galling is that CalPERS officials aren’t using their bully pulpit as the state’s (and nation’s) largest pension system to promote reform….” The editorial concluded, “When school districts start going belly-up – and they will, they will – then maybe the bureaucrats in CalPERS’ sleek new $265 million headquarters in Sacramento finally will admit to the obvious. Meanwhile, unfortunately, they’re content to make the problem worse by pushing the fiction that CalPERS is in its glory years.”
I have authored Assembly Constitutional Amendment 23, a proposal that provides a fair retirement program for all state, local, and education employees who work until they are 65 years old, except for public safety officers who can retire at age 55. My proposed reform will affect only state employees hired after July 1, 2007.
Sacramento Bee political columnist Daniel Weintraub in a January 3rd 2006 article entitled, One lawmaker tries to keep pension issue alive, noted: “Keith Richman is clearly a man who doesn’t give up easily. But the Republican assemblyman from Northridge might simply be ahead of his time in trying to bring attention to one of the biggest policy problems of the era: public employee pensions.”
“The early retirement ages at a time when life expectancy is lengthening mean that taxpayers are being asked to pay for two parallel work forces, one still on the job and the other that is retired and living off a pension for almost as long as they worked.”
“Richman’s latest proposal would help remedy that by standardizing pension benefits statewide for new employees hired after July 1, 2007, forcing local governments to compete on salary, which has to be accounted for up-front and is far easier for taxpayers to understand.”
“The keys to the proposal are the higher retirement age, which allows money invested for and by the employee to compound over a longer period of time, and the transparency provided by a standard formula that can’t be tweaked after a backroom deal that voters never see and ends up costing millions.”
Weintraub concludes, “If and when it is ever addressed, Richman should get some credit for doing everything possible to keep the issue alive.”
To access Weintraub’s entire article, you can click on http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/v-print/story/1403517p-14867134c.html. I will keep you posted on my efforts to reform California’s broken pension program.
The Citizen’s Assembly — True citizen input and genuine reform
Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla (D-Pittsburg) and I have introduced legislation providing for creation of the Citizen’s Assembly, an effort to truly reform and overhaul the state’s electoral system.
I believe that people don’t trust the government to solve the problems that we face. There is currently a lot of cynicism and apathy toward government, and rightfully so. Therefore, it’s important that we have a process that at least tries to re-engage the citizenry.
The Sacramento Bee, in a December 20th, 2005 article by Andy Furillo entitled, “Overhaul of state electoral system sought,” said that, “Richman and Canciamilla came up with the ‘citizens assembly’ idea this year in the background of the special election, away from the fury of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s year of reform campaign that saw his four hotly contested government overhaul initiatives go down to defeat.”
“The two legislators were joined in their discussions by academic figures such as Stanford history professor David Kennedy, political reform guru Bob Stern, redistricting expert Doug Johnson of the Rose Institute and David Lesher, the head of the New American Foundation’s Sacramento think tank.”
Veteran Sacramento Bee political columnist Dan Walters, in a January 3, 2006 article entitled, If governor’s looking for a cause, not a cop-out, here’s an idea, said that, “…two state legislators — one a Democrat, the other a Republican – are undertaking an out-of-the-box effort to change the state’s political dialogue.”
“The odds against success are astronomical, but Assemblyman Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg and Keith Richman, R-Northridge – a mortician and a physician, oddly enough – are promoting an audacious scheme to create a ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ and employ it to develop sweeping reforms in the way California government is constituted and present them to voters for ratification.”
“….they will introduce their proposal as legislation this year, but perhaps only as a formality since the changes of the Legislature agreeing to such a sweeping process lie somewhere between remote and nil, and say they will pursue an imitative to place the Citizens Assembly concept directly before voters.”
“If Schwarzenegger hasn’t complete abandoned the notion of remaking California’s government, he should stop negotiating the terms of his surrender to the Legislature and make the Canciamilla-Richman proposal his new crusade.”
You can read Walter’s complete article by clicking, http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/v-print/story/14035115p-14867095c.html. I’ll keep you posted on our Citizens Assembly as the proposal moves forward in this session of the legislature.
Other pending legislative proposals………
Also this year, I’ll be introducing legislation to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District which consists of 727,000 students. It is unacceptable to me that nearly 50% of the students attending Los Angeles Unified Schools do not graduate. I share Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s concern with the behemoth district that cannot properly educate our future leaders.
I’ll be pushing for passage of my bipartisan Universal Health Care Act of 2005, written with Democrat Assemblyman Joe Nation. It’s going to be an exciting year in the legislature and I will continue working to make a positive difference.
As always, your thoughts are welcome.