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A brief history of California public employee pensions: part one

California is known throughout the country for being friendly to workers. A recent series in Bloomberg found that California has the highest-paid public workers in the country.

A combination of high wages, substantial overtime and lump-sum payments contributes to these high numbers. But starting Jan. 1, California is changing another financial benefit commonly enjoyed by public workers: their pensions.

During the 1990s the stock market boomed and California enjoyed fund and pension surpluses. This led to cries for higher pay and pensions by Californians who saw that the government could clearly afford it. The California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS, increased the pension promised to public workers, retroactive to their date of hire.

Workers who were already retired received a one to six percent pension increase under the new law. Higher pensions trickled down to local governments as well.

In 2004, a study of 14 states found that California had the most generous system. But now, with state and local governments struggling to balance budgets, the issue of pensions has come up again - and this time public employees may not like the change.

Next week we'll look at some recent pension legislation in California, explore how it is affecting public workers and discuss its implications for the state.

If you are a public employee and you have been treated wrongly in the field of wage, benefits or pensions, your future livelihood and financial security could be at stake. It is important to work with an experienced employment law attorney who understands the unique issues facing public employees. They can help you review your options, take any appropriate legal action and protect your career.

Source: Public CEO, "New California pensions drop back toward pack," Dec. 18, 2012

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