Audio Clips

13 July 2010

Even Willie Brown Can See the Problem With Public Employees' Compensation

From Today's Reason Magazine online:

Former San Francisco mayor and State Assembly speaker Willie Brown is becoming a high-profile champion of reforming California's public sector pension system. It's a strange but logical transformation for the staunchly utilitarian politician and practiced gladhander.

Jon Fleischman at Flash Report describes Brown's transition:

Earlier this year he wrote a widely-circulated column in the San Francisco Chronicle lamenting the "out of control" civil service: "The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians -- pushed by our friends in labor -- gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages."

When I interviewed Mr. Brown in New York in March, he lamented that he hadn't anticipated the long-term implications of over-generous pensions: "When I was Speaker I was in charge of passing spending. When I became mayor I was in charge of paying for that spending. It was a wake-up call."

Governor Schwarzenegger wants the legislature to revoke certain pension reforms enacted in 1999, which made pensions much more generous. Mr. Brown may signal the emergence of other liberal allies calling reform, despite the opposition of powerful Democratic unions. The more that pension costs balloon, the less money is available for other programs -- including many dear to the hearts of progressives.

Let's hope other politicians come to their senses too.

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