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Jerry Brown Seeks Rollback of California Pensions

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown said pension benefits for state employees should be rolled back to contain rising costs in the state retirement system.

Brown told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that he favors increasing the retirement age for new state employees while asking current workers to contribute more of their salaries toward their retirement benefits.

His ideas echo key changes made in contracts Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently negotiated with six labor unions as part of the governor's attempt to achieve long-term pension reforms.

Brown, the state's attorney general and a former governor, said public workers are being blamed for economic problems caused by Wall Street hedge funds and mortgage sellers.

"But at the same time, as I did as governor, I know when it's time to tighten our belt," he said.

Brown said he would end a practice known as pension-spiking, in which public employee retirement benefits are inflated by promotions, overtime, bonuses and unused vacation time in a person's final year. Instead, benefits should be calculated on a worker's average base salary during the last three years of service.

For new state hires, Brown would raise the retirement age from 55 to 60, which is lower than the retirement age proposed by his opponent, Republican Meg Whitman.

The former eBay chief executive has proposed raising the retirement age to 65 for current and future workers. Under her plan, new hires would no longer receive a state pension but be eligible for 401(k)-style plans.

Brown wants to maintain pensions for all state workers.

Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said Brown's proposal fails to "fundamentally change the broken pension system that benefits the very public employee unions that are funding his campaign."

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