Commentary: Pension reform starts from the top

The Sacramento BeeApril 22, 2010 

With his time in office running out, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger once again is calling on the Legislature to fix California's costly public pension system.

On Wednesday, the Republican governor urged lawmakers to end pension spiking, in which elected officials and high-end government employees switch to higher-paying jobs at the ends of their careers to boost their pensions.

Over the weekend, he devoted his weekly radio address to the topic: "We had the Internet bubble, then the housing bubble, next is the pension bubble. And it is already starting to burst. I refuse to pass this problem on to the next governor and the next Legislature."

Schwarzenegger has been sounding this alarm from the start of his tenure, to no avail. He abandoned an early initiative that was so poorly drafted that it would have stripped pensions from families of murdered cops, and never truly placed the issue back at the top of his agenda.

Now that he is a lame duck and legislators are focusing on this year's elections, there is little incentive and even less time to fashion a significant pension overhaul.

And here is an open secret: It's not just public employee unions and their members who seek to protect pension benefits. Members of both parties and many of their patrons benefit from the system as it is. For all his talk, the governor himself on occasion has had a hand in juicing pensions he decries.

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