The executive director of the Little Hoover Commission, Stuart Drown, testified yesterday before a joint session of California Assembly and Senate committees that oversee public employee compensation. The purpose of Mr. Drown’s testimony was to review the Little Hoover Commission’s recent report on the state of California’s public employee pensions. You can read an executive summary of the report by clicking here. The basic thrust of the report was (and is) as follows:
1. Pension costs will crush government in California.
2. The maths doesn’t work.
3. The system lacks discipline.
4. The system lacks oversight and accountability.
The Commission went on to propose that public employee pensions at both the state and local level be lowered in order to save the state of California from fiscal catastrophe.
Needless to say, the Commission’s proposal ran into a hailstorm of criticism and dismissal from the legislative solons. Union representatives were, unsurprisingly, equally critical and dismissive. The solons called the Commission’s recommendations illegal. The unions called them unfair.
It is unclear what happens next. No one doubts that the Commission’s findings are “true” (an accurate assessment of the available data) and provide a good factual basis for public pension policy planning But no one wants to deal with what the Commission’s findings mean. Because what it means is a downward adjustment in the living standards of a large number of people, all of whom vote in elections and all of whom are attached to powerful public employee union political action committees (and the like).
So yesterday wasn’t “listen to the bad news” day in Sacramento. It was “shoot the messenger” day.
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