California public employees have less than two weeks to vote in a CalPERS board election that pits one of its longest-serving leaders against a police officer who argues the pension fund needs new oversight.
So far, fewer than 10,000 people have voted in an election that’s open to more than 258,000 local government workers. Ballots are due by Oct. 1 and can be submitted online, by phone or through the mail.
Perez, a Corona police officer, has support from the California Police Chiefs Association and several Southern California law enforcement unions. He did not respond to a phone call or messages from The Sacramento Bee for this story.
Perez has raised about $30,000 in contributions from law enforcement unions and the Retired Public Employees Association. CalPERS board member Margaret Brown and former board member J.J. Jelincic also have contributed to his campaign.
Mathur, a financial analyst for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, has been endorsed by State Controller Betty Yee and CalPERS board Vice President Rob Feckner. Mathur has raised almost $60,000 with large checks from various AFSCME chapters, SEIU Local 1000 and California Professional Firefighters.
Mathur, the CalPERS board president, also has been hitting the road to meet with government employees in person.
She has served on the CalPERS board since 2003 and contends her experience matters in encouraging policies that keep low health care rates and help the pension fund prepare for the next economic downturn.
Mathur says public employees seem motivated this year by the Supreme Court decision in June that banned public sector labor organizations from collecting fees from workers who did not choose to join a union but benefited from representation. Public employees, she said, view the decision as a blow against labor.
“This is a particular election where people really care about the outcome. It hits them personally. I don’t think they’re going to gamble on inexperience and empty general words,” she said.
Perez began attending CalPERS board meetings last year with other officers from the Corona Peace Officers Association. In general, he and his colleagues stress that CalPERS must earn more money from its investment portfolio to relieve pressure on local governments.
“It’s not that I want to be a board member,” he said at his debate with Mathur earlier this month. “It’s that we need to turn the board back in the direction it needs to go, which is maximizing returns.”
CalPERS has about 71 percent of the funds it would need to pay all of the money it owes to public employees and retirees.
The CalPERS board over the past two years has carried out a series of votes that required government agencies to kick in more money to fund their pension obligations. The votes raise financial pressure on local governments, but also put CalPERS in better position to navigate a recession.
“We knew that local governments were acutely hurting in (the last recession) and it was impacting workers at the bargaining table, so we felt that was not a good time to increase contribution rates,” Mathur said. “It’s 10 years down the road and most local employers are doing much better, so it’s time to take steps to solidify the fund.”
Mathur in 2014 faced a tough challenge from Sacramento Assistant City Manager Leyne Milstein. Only 16,875 workers cast ballots. She was fined $4,000 in 2014 by the Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to file campaign finance statements on time.