Commentary: A Public-Private PERS?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, April 18, 2008

California’s massive $242 billion dollar retirement fund is fueled by taxes all of us pay, but only government workers benefit. CalPERS pays their pensions.

Los Angeles Assemblyman Kevin De Leon has proposed opening up the system to private sector workers and their employers. His bill would allow CalPERS to offer individual retirement accounts to private workers for the first time. It’s a tantalizing idea.

In today’s economy fewer and fewer private employers offer work place-based pensions. That leaves workers, particularly those at the lower end of the wage scale, too dependent on social security, which alone, will not be enough to cover most retirees’ basic needs.

Under the bill proposed. CalPERS would deduct money from a private workers’ paycheck. Their employer could contribute as well, if they chose, and CalPERS would manage the worker’s retirement account for a fee.

The proposal, if adopted, must not put government workers at risk in any way. It must pay for it self. Nonetheless, there’s exciting potential here for increasing savings for the state’s most vulnerable workers. The Legislature needs to give it very serious and careful attention.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.