California Professional Firefighters

Governor Announces Historic Pension Rollbacks

At a news conference in Los Angeles today, Gov. Jerry Brown announced an agreement that will take public employee retirement security back to the Reagan years.

The plan – hashed out with legislative leaders behind closed doors – imposes a range of rollbacks, all without the benefit of collective bargaining.

  • New lower tier for almost all employees – local, state, teachers, the works. Public safety retirement would top out at 2.7% at 57;
  • A cap on pensionable income -- $110,000 for those who pay Social Security; $130,000 for those who don’t.
  • Mandatory cost sharing immediately, for all new employees, and by 2018, for current employees;
  • Three-year final compensation averaging;
  • Limits on pensionable compensation, airtime purchases, pension holidays and retroactivity.

You can read the governor’s media release HERE.

CPF President Lou Paulson had the following reaction:

The pension proposals outlined today represent a retreat from collective bargaining and basic principles of retirement security. The proposal imposes rollbacks to levels not seen in four decades – the biggest pension rollback in California history. They punish everyday working people who have already sacrificed hundreds of millions of dollars in wages and benefits lost to furloughs, layoffs and downsizing.

For firefighters, it is an especially disappointing day. Our members depend on the promise of a reasonable, secure retirement in return for their commitment to a difficult and dangerous profession. These proposals make that future promise less secure for the next generation.

Firefighters in dozens of cities have agreed to two-tiered systems, higher contribution rates and crackdowns on spiking. To unilaterally impose these changes from Sacramento short-circuits a bargaining process that is producing real savings and mocks the governor’s stated commitment to local control.

Beyond its punitive nature, these pension changes could actually wind up imposing greater costs on public agencies, especially in the short term. According to a RAND study, firefighters over the age of 55 have a workplace injury rate that is more than a 60-percent greater than firefighters under the age of 45 years. That translates to higher workers’ comp and disability costs, as well as being bad for the safety of our citizens.

Nobody condones abuse of the pension system – least of all our members. But these proposals go far beyond “reform”. Instead they threaten basic retirement security for generations of front line first responders and their families.

The final proposal is expected to be voted upon by this Friday. 

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