On June 5, North Coast voters will be picking lawmakers to serve in some newly drawn legislative districts. But while the districts are new, the problems aren't. Chief among them is a pension crisis that, despite Gov. Jerry Brown rolling out a bold reform plan, fails to get much action in the capitol.
It's inexcusable. The state is more than $100 billion behind in meeting its Cadillac pension promises to public employees and another $62 billion in the red on health and dental benefits. Meanwhile, cities such as Santa Rosa continue to appeal to legislators for help in loosening the ties that bind them to an uncompromising CalPERS system — to no avail.
On the contrary, legislators seem determined to make it harder for cities to break the binds of unsustainable contracts through the only course available to them: bankruptcy. In September, the Legislature approved AB 506, which requires local governments to jump through extra hoops — including getting approval from “a neutral evaluator” — before filing bankruptcy.
One person in a postion to make a difference is Assemblyman Michael Allen of Santa Rosa, who has moved to San Rafael to run in the newly drawn 10th Assembly District. Allen, a former labor leader, serves on a legislative panel that is looking at public pension systems and potential reforms. Despite perceptions that nothing is happening, Allen says the committee is moving ahead on the governor's proposals, and he expects a package to come forward in August.
We hope so.
Fortunately, the new top-two primary system opens the door for us to take a wait-and-see approach. In the 10th Assembly District, our endorsement goes to both San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine and Assemblyman Allen.
Levine, a consultant to high-tech startup companies, has served less than a full term on the San Rafael council. But the experience has allowed him to witness first-hand the budgetary challenges confronting cities and counties. A strong supporter of education funding and green energy policies, Levine, as a member of a city ad hoc pension reform group, has also been at the forefront of San Rafael's austerity measures and speaks well about how Sacramento lawmakers can help cities but aren't.