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blicans challenge Democrats on pension reform with their own proposals

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POSTED February 22, 2012 8:10 p.m.

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — Republican lawmakers on Wednesday challenged Gov. Jerry Brown to get Democratic support for the pension reforms he introduced four months ago.

GOP leaders in the Senate and Assembly announced a package of bills identical to the Democratic governor's proposal, which seeks to bring public-sector retirement benefits more in line with those at private employers.

"We believe it's a good start," said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. "It's certainly rare that you see us agreeing with the Democrat governor. ... But today we stand here with the governor to get this pension reform."

Last year, Brown offered pension reforms in exchange for Republican support to put tax measures on the ballot, but the two sides failed to strike a deal.

Brown said Republicans demanded too much — 53 budget reforms and policy changes — in exchange for allowing voters to decide on temporary taxes. GOP members say the governor bowed to union interests opposed to pension reform.

Republicans said there are no strings attached this time.

"Maybe the governor just had time to think about that proposal and decided it was OK," said Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare.

In October, the governor called for putting new state workers in a hybrid plan that includes a 401(k)-style account. He also called for increasing the retirement age and having local and state workers pay more toward their retirement and health care.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has said Democrats are committed to getting pension reform done, addressing some of the stickiest issues like the hybrid plan. He said he expects the Legislature to approve pension reforms this spring before passing a budget by the June 15 deadline.

Earlier this month, the conservative group California Pension Reform said it was suspending its campaign to put public employee pension reform on the November ballot due to lack of funding.

 

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