In his Nov.29 CALmatters column, Dan Walters details an ongoing battle over public-employee pensions into which Gov. Jerry Brown has injected himself through an amicus brief filed with the state Supreme Court.

Brown’s position is not especially courageous since he is in his last term as governor and he is expected not to seek another office after his departure. Essentially, he has nothing to lose by challenging powerful unions.

Explained most simply, Brown’s position, and the issue argued before the court, is that public agencies should have greater flexibility in choosing to limit future gains to pension plans for union members.

The question comes down to a key distinction: What is considered a “reasonable” pension?

As the law stands, “reasonable” means that pension compensation for future work cannot be modified below existing levels. This places smaller local agencies at a disadvantage, especially when hit financially with hard times.

Nearing the apparent end of his political career, Brown is able to advocate for sound, sustainable policy and to promote a decision few other Democrats would publicly endorse.

The proceedings and final decision of the case will be contentious. The effects of the court’s decision will be far-reaching. But, for now, at least we know where Brown stands on the issue.

To see Walters’ breakdown of the case and Brown’s involvement, read more here: Brown, with nothing to lose, defies unions on pensions


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