The State Worker

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes bill that would raise funeral benefit for CalPERS members

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, sponsored a bill that would have raised the value of a death benefit CalPERS to offset the costs of its members’ funerals. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it.
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, sponsored a bill that would have raised the value of a death benefit CalPERS to offset the costs of its members’ funerals. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it. Sacramento Bee file, 2013

Funeral costs may rise, but the one-time benefit families of state employees receive after a loved one’s death is staying flat.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday vetoed a bill that would have escalated a death benefit paid by the California Public Employees Retirement System that’s intended to offset funeral costs for some of its members.

The $2,000 benefit has not increased since 2000. It was first paid in 1945, when it was $300.

In a veto message, Brown wrote that he was concerned about CalPERS unfunded pension liabilities. This year, CalPERS is expected to pay about $1.2 billion more in benefits than it earns from its investment income.

“I don’t believe it’s prudent to add the additional costs this bill will require,” Brown wrote.

The bill, sponsored by Los Angeles Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, passed the Assembly by a margin of 57-19 and the Senate by 24-12.

Jones-Sawyer intended for the bill only to apply to lower-paid school employees, such as custodians and maintenance workers.

A Senate analysis of the bill evaluated a wider population of public employees and said that raising the benefit could compel the state to ratchet it up its CalPERS contributions by as much as $30 million in 2018.

The California Federation of Teachers advocated for the bill as a way to help families of lower-income state workers pay for funerals. In 2014, the median cost for a funeral was $7,181, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton

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