On Sunday, Orange County Employees Association (OCEA)Â Â General Manager Nick Berardino responded to Supervisor John Moorlach’s op-ed regarding the looming state and local budget shortfalls and the impact of public employee pensions on that crisis. As I said in my post last weekÂ on the topic, Moorlach leaves a lot out of his arguments in order to assign blame on public employee pay and pensions. Berardino points out that OCEA members have taken the lead in reform and Moorlach’s rhetoric does more to move us backwards on the road towards further cooperation.
Berardino’s rebuttal printed in the Orange County Register last Sunday is already nextÂ to impossible to locate on the OC Register site. To make things easier, I’m posting it in its entiretyÂ here:
Rebuttal (Nick Berardino): Let’s move forward, not back, on pensions
Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, in a column posted Dec. 10 on ocregister.com and printed in The Register on Dec. 14 [“County needs lower pension costs”], presented two options for how he believes public employees can avoid financial disaster for the county: either scale back existing, ratified pension formulas, or don’t, and eventually face pay freezes and layoffs.
This comes within a week of the Board of Supervisors’ review of the 2010 Strategic Financial Plan, which is meant to provide a financial snapshot of the county. Though it is not a finalized budget ready to be voted on, the document asks staff to develop a salary and benefit cost-reduction plan to cut costs by up to $100 million during the next five years and enforce a hiring freeze that stops most hiring, with a few exceptions as required by state and federal mandates.
Moorlach suggests reverting to a previous pension formula, one that would provide reduced benefits to current county employees.
“Sometimes in life you have to go backward to move forward,” he writes. “This is a mindset that has to be adopted by the public employee unions in this state. Not doing so will only lead to the inevitable: massive layoffs, pay cuts and possible bankruptcy workout plans.”
Instead of resolving to move backward, wouldn’t it be better to move forward collectively?
Instead of asking working men and women to take a step back, why not join us in the fight to forge forward with the limited resources we have? Some in Washington, D.C., are listening, as are the folks at The Economist, who recently published information about our hybrid pension plan which proposes a defined-benefit plan with a voluntary defined-contribution plan and an employer match contribution. The hybrid plan includes a reduced pension and a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k).
“The ball is in the unions’ court,” Moorlach writes. If that’s so, then we choose to collaboratively engage rather than forfeit. Instead of simply taking away from working families as a quick fix to a long-term problem, let’s work toward improving the situation for all working Americans.
“Giving up something that you have is a very difficult thing to do,” Moorlach writes. We’re with him on that point â€“ but both sides must be willing to sacrifice. OCEA members have done just that by reforming the pension, retiree medical benefits and setting our salaries to the private sector.
We understand times are tough â€“ nowhere is that felt more than in the wallets, and on the dinner tables, of the working class.
Everyone has been hit by this recession, and regardless of which side we’re on, we are all in this together.
For once, Supervisor Moorlach should act like it.
In a note to OCEA members Berardino added the following:
Last night, 60 Minutes aired segment that is important for all of us to watch, especially at a time when public employees are under attack amid state and local budget deficits. The segment, â€œState Budgets: Day of Reckoning,â€ describes how states across the nation are cutting costs to deal with their deep budget deficits and how many politicians are making public employees the scapegoats for the budget problems. The story warns that the budget situation will get worse for many local governments, which are on track to default on their municipal bonds in coming months.
Please take a moment to watch the segment. The only way we can fight back against the anti-public employee sentiment is if we remain informed and resolved to stand together. Thank you for all you do.