Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Must Read: Voters Want More Concessions from Public Employee Unions; Brown Defends Sweetheart Deal with Prison Guards

By Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 7:04 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A large majority of Californians want public employees to give up some of their retirement benefits to help ease the state’s budget deficit, according to a new Los Angeles Times-USC poll. Seventy percent of respondents said they favor a cap on pension benefits for current and future government workers. And 68 percent said they want public employees to contribute more to their retirement plans. Fifty-two percent support raising the age in which public employees can retire.

2. The new poll comes at a time when Governor Jerry Brown is trying to defend tentative deals with the California prison guards and other state unions that do little to solve the current budget crisis. Brown told the Chron that the pact his administration struck with the 30,000-member prison guards’ union was a “good deal,” even though it will save the state $129 million less than his budget had promised. Brown, who depended heavily on the prison guards and other public-employee unions to get elected, needs two Republican votes in both houses of the legislature to get the pacts approved.

3. Several Bay Area public agencies, including Oakland Unified School District, are refusing to release public-employee health and retirement benefit information, despite a state Supreme Court decision that ruled the information is public, the CoCo Times reports. Other agencies, meanwhile, including the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, have only released partial data. The newspaper also reports that numerous part-time public officials are double-dipping on the taxpayers’ dime, collecting more than one health insurance plan.

4. The Orange County Register, however, reports that public employees are not the only reason for the state’s financial mess. Legal loopholes enacted by the legislature have lowered the tax burden on corporations by about 50 percent in the last three decades, substantially cutting into state revenues. At the same time, the tax burden on individuals rose by a third.

5. Oakland Interim City Manager Lamont Ewell has quietly extended the city’s garbage collection contract with Waste Management, saying the new deal will slice the city’s general fund deficit by about $4.8 million, the Chron reports. But Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente says the pact should have put out to bid.

6. Ex-state Senator Don Perata is collecting big donations from large corporations and labor in an effort to redraw state and Congressional districts, arguing that the new independent redistricting commission will fail in its responsibilities, the SacBee reports.

7. And BART is offering customers a chance to help select new seats for the new trains it’s purchasing, the Chron reports. The agency plans to spend $3.4 billion over the next thirteen years, replacing its entire fleet of trains.

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