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New Stage in Pension Debate Set to Begin

The great California pension debate begins anew Wednesday as a joint Senate-Assembly committee meets to discuss potential changes.

Democratic Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod will co-chair the committee. She said she wants to cut down on systemic abuses like pension holidays, spiking and double-dipping.

“If there are problems, we have to fix them,” said Negrete McLeod, “because we have to make sure that the public actually thinks we’re good stewards of the public dollar.”

Republican Senator Mimi Walters agreed with those changes. But she said the state must also move from the current “defined benefit” system – where employees get a set payment each month – to a hybrid 401(k) style system.

“We have anywhere from $100 billion to half a trillion dollars of unfunded pension liability. And we simply cannot continue down this path,” said Walters. “We have to have major reform.”

Both senators said they’re eager to hear Governor Jerry Brown’s plan. Negrete McLeod said the governor told her he’ll release it Thursday.

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