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.
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“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.