Schwarzenegger Gets Help From Grover Norquist To Attack PERS
As you probably know by now, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a FY 2005/2006 budget here in California that targets billions of dollars in cuts at schools, the poor, the disabled, our highway infrastructure, and government employees at all levels in the state. Yet his staff claim that he isn’t targeting anyone, but is only trying to make tough decisions and solve problems. However, it appears to many that the wealthy and corporations are the only groups that seemingly are excluded under the governor’s budget from any sacrifice at all.
Schwarzenegger has already started ramping up his campaign to sell his initiatives, and according to some has set up his way around campaign finance rules to take his proposals to the people. One of the most contentious of these issues will be his demand that all new employees in state or local government after July 1, 2007 no longer receive a defined benefit pension, but rather are left to the tender mercies of a 401 (k). Because of justified concerns over the feeding frenzy of pension enhancements that some public employee unions obtained from former governor Gray Davis, many thought that public entities in the state were facing crippling and rising employee retirement costs.
But instead of proposing legislation or an initiative to reverse those enhancements, Schwarzenegger was apparently convinced by his anti-public employee supporters to go beyond the problem at hand and affect the retirement system of the state’s public employees at all levels, including not just state employees, but also local government employees, teachers, judges, and law enforcement. Yet in targeting the California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) defined benefit plan, Schwarzenegger and his supporters are going after the best run public retirement system in the country, but one that just happens to be vocal about corporate governance as well.
Schwarzenegger claims that he isn’t targeting anyone or public employees in particular with regards to his proposals, but under the proposed budget state employees would not only see major changes made to PERS, but also be required to pay thousands more each year in retirement and health benefit costs while giving up holidays, and suffering unpaid days off at the governor’s choosing. His claim is further undercut at the news that none other than Grover Norquist will be coming to California to help Schwarzenegger sell his plan to "reform" PERS.
What gets lost in this debate will be the impact upon recruiting and retention for public employment in California at all levels.
It should be an epic battle between Norquist and the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which along with SEIU and the California Teachers Association will be fighting Schwarzenegger’s plans to do away with defined benefit retirements. But if Schwarzenegger wants to convince anyone that this isn’t just a conservative wet dream to destroy public employee unions, he should keep Norquist as far away from the effort as possible, given Grover’s death wish to the Democratic Party and public employees.
And perhaps we can send emails to the clueless San Francisco Chronicle reporter Mark Martin who penned Wednesday’s piece with the most benign description of Norquist possible. It’s as if Martin doesn’t really know about Norquist’s mission in life. You can send Martin an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and clue him in on who Norquist really is.