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Capitol Roundup: Pensions, Parks and Pay Raises

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, August 6, 2012

California Democratic legislative leaders are dealing with the political fallout from a decision to award merit raises of up to five percent to hundreds of staff employees.

Those raises came at the same time other state workers lost pay because of furlough days.

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he made the decision knowing that unlike other state workers, Senate employees hadn't received step increases for four years.

Steinberg: "I will admit I've had a few sleepless nights over the break about it, cause you know I pride myself on thinking through things and you know it's a close call."

But he said the discovery of $54-million hidden in two separate state parks accounts wasn't a close call at all.

Steinberg: "There's no good excuse for how we asked people to pony up private dollars to keep parks open and then all of a sudden you find this money, it was a mistake."

Steinberg says the legislature will work to figure out what systems should be in place to prevent a recurrence of the mistake.

Meanwhile, Steinberg has decided that now is not the time to change California's newly-approved process for cities and counties to enter into bankruptcy.

The Senate's top Democrat decided to kill the legislation authored by a Democratic Assembly member.

The bill would have loosened deadlines on negotiations with creditors and labor groups.

But Steinberg says it's time now for the legislature to focus elsewhere.

 Steinberg:  "We don't need to have another fight or argument on this same front, we're trying to accomplish pension reform and that's where we want the focus to be an not on something that is a distraction."

Democratic legislative leaders are trying to come to an agreement on several key pension issues; including whether or not to offer a 401-k style plan that would supplement benefits for new employees.

They're also considering whether to raise the retirement age from the current age of 55.

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