The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 2, 2009
Whitman talks about public employee pensions

Editor's note: The pension figures for patrol and public safety employees have been corrected to reflect the percentages at which they cap.

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman was in town Tuesday to speak to the Sacramento County Republican Party. The Bee's Jack Chang was there and recorded her remarks.

During a Q & A at around the 34-minute mark, someone in the audience said, "Labor. Some people say that's the big stranglehold here, not just the Legislature. And I think you have some different ideas about that. Can you talk just a little bit about that, your approach?"

"I think what you're talking about in many ways is the unions, yes?" Whitman said. She went on to talk about pensions, including this remark:

"Many civil servants can retire at 50 or 55 years old with virtually full salary and health care benefits until the day they die."

Click the following link for analysis and an audio clip of Whitman's remarks.

Peace officers, firefighters and highway patrol are the only classifications in state government that can retire at 50 or 55 with a 3 percent formula and it tops out after 30 years at 90 percent. State safety officers can retire at 55 with 2.5 percent of their pay times years of service - they max out at 80 percent. State employees in the miscellaneous classification -- the largest single group in state service - have a 2 percent at 55 formula, so they would have to start their service time at age 5 and work 50 years to retire with a pension equal to their paycheck.

Clearly, that doesn't happen.

Whitman's call for pension changes echoes what the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility hopes to accomplish with its ballot initiative. The foundation wants to create a mandatory second-tier pension system for new public employees hired by the state, counties, cities and other non-federal government agencies in California. Click here to read more about the initiative.

Click here to download a 77-second snippet of Whitman talking about pensions.

The candidate also talked about "negotiating hard" with employee unions to "get better terms on behalf of the taxpayers of California." We'll have a post for you later with an audio clip of those remarks.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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