Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown to Congress: Protect California’s private retirement program

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference in Coronado, in January.
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference in Coronado, in January. AP

Gov. Jerry Brown, in a letter to the state’s congressional delegation, pushed back against a Republican-led repeal of federal labor regulations allowing California to create state-run investment accounts for millions of private-sector workers without retirement plans.

Brown, who signed legislation last year establishing the “Secure Choice” program, called the retirement savings opportunity modest, but important.

He said the labor department issued its rule to ensure the retirement schemes were financially and legally sound.

Efforts to wipe away the Obama administration regulations could spur legal challenges to state programs like the one in California, and imperil future moves to enact the benefit in other states.

“I understand that Wall Street institutions strongly object to California and other states setting up such systems,” Brown wrote in the Tuesday letter, which was released Wednesday.

“They think the dollars that move into Secure Choice should instead flow into their own products. I consider this a feature, not a defect, of Secure Choice. Indeed, we hope to enroll those who historically (have) not been served by the savings industry.”

Brown concluded: “I urge you to oppose this resolution, so states can continue to create innovative programs like this one – and enable more people to live with dignity in their retirement years.”

The Democratic governor joins a bipartisan group of elected leaders working to protect the program, including Treasurer John Chiang.

Last week, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres sent a letter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield in support of Secure Choice. De León said his office was exploring all options – including a potential statewide ballot measure.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago