Pension Truth Squad: Public Employees Are Doing Their Part

As lawmakers examine public pensions and Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to release his new pension agenda, firefighters, law enforcement officers and others are fighting to preserve retirement security for California’s middle class. The Pension Truth Squad gathered outside a legislative hearing today to set the record straight about politically motivated attacks on public worker pensions.

Rich Brandt of the Long Beach Firefighters:

We have been part of the solution, while those with political agendas are unfairly portraying us as the problem. We are working people, supporting families, contributing to our local economies and, in many cases, putting our lives on the line to protect the public. We also willingly have made huge concessions at the bargaining table to help repair an economy wrecked by Wall Street.

Meanwhile, several public employees invited to testify at a special legislative hearing in Carson planned to tell lawmakers that they welcome fair and thoughtful changes to assure California's public pension system stays strong. But they warned elected officials against forcing millions of working Californians into risky 401(k)-style retirement plans.

Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security:

As long as lawmakers focus on facts, rather than political hyperbole, we are confident they will find that public pensions are not the problem some would like the public to believe. Employee pensions make up a small fraction of state spending, and a poorly crafted overhaul will cost taxpayers more in the long run.

In Los Angeles County, CalPERS pension payments generated $3 billion in economic activity last year, according to a study by the pension fund. Meanwhile, state employees have agreed over the past two years to pay more toward their pensions and to other changes that have saved California $600 million in pension costs, according to CalPERS. Overall, California public employees’ contributions to their pensions have climbed from 5 percent to 7 to up to 11 percent. At the local level, at least 200 California cities, counties and local districts, firefighters, police and other public employees have agreed to increase pension contributions and lower public costs.

Dawn Bronsema, who worked as an elementary school secretary in Downey for three decades, said her pension income is hardly lavish.

I live modestly on a modest pension that I contributed to with every paycheck. I did the job asked of me, and am grateful for the small amount of retirement security I got in return. Please don’t take that away from me, or from others who may want to work in public service.

The Pension Truth Squad tour has appeared in 10 California cities and is sponsored by Californians for Retirement Security, which represents 1.5 million public employees and retirees.

Speakers at today’s Pension Truth Squad Press Conference included: Rich Brandt, Long Beach Fire Department; Brian Moriguchi; President of the Professional Peace Officers Association and the Los Angeles County Organization of Police and Sheriffs; Rick Jordan, Retired Public School Teacher; Dawn Bronsema, Retired Elementary School Secretary, Downey; and Jim Spaulding, Retired City of Long Beach Employee.

Learn more at http://www.letstalkpensions.com.