The State Worker

New California law enforcement contract has ‘fitness’ loophole

Department of Fish and Game Warden Anthony Marrone checks in the shotgun allegedly used in the 2009 shooting of a sea lion on the Sacramento River.
Department of Fish and Game Warden Anthony Marrone checks in the shotgun allegedly used in the 2009 shooting of a sea lion on the Sacramento River. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown, the architect of stiffer public pension laws three years ago, has again reached a state labor agreement that uses an accounting trick to add money to some state employees’ retirement accounts.

The tentative contract with the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association:

1. Eliminates the requirement that covered employees pass fitness tests to receive a $65 monthly physical-fitness incentive payment.

2. Rolls the $65 a month into base pay.

3. Makes the $780 per year pensionable income – and subject to future bargained pay raises. Under Brown’s 2013 pension law, fitness pay doesn’t count toward retirement benefits.

4. Voilà! Loophole created.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association negotiated a similar provision into its new contract in April.

The CSLEA represents about 7,200 employees, from park rangers, game wardens and CHP dispatchers to Justice Department investigators, dairy inspectors and Alcoholic Beverage Control agents.

The tentative agreement, effective July 2 to July 1, 2019 also spreads 8 percent in salary increases over three years. The first two increases raise pay 3 percent annually; the last adds a 2 percent raise.

On the other side of the ledger, employees would contribute 1.3 percent of their pay into a retiree health benefits fund starting July 1, 2017. A year later, the contribution would increase to 2.7 percent and then go to 4 percent on the contract’s last day. The state will match employees’ contributions.

Union members will have from Monday through close of business on Friday to vote on the agreement, according to the union’s website.

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