Government works best when it unites everyone around the common good. That will be a hallmark of my approach as a County Supervisor, and it will be incredibly important because we have some tough issues to confront. Unless we are prepared to make tough decisions and ask for shared sacrifice, the people’s work will not get done.
Public pension reform is one of these tough issues, and it is seen as a political land mine to many. The moderator at a recent candidate forum I attended referred to the county’s unfunded pension liability as the “800-pound gorilla in the room”. But we can’t ignore the problem and hope it will just go away. The long-term financial solvency of the County is at risk. All affected parties must engage in an honest discussion of how to resolve this issue responsibly.
If elected, I will make solving the County’s unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities among my highest priorities. I will engage from day one with the County Executive, public employee union leadership, and the other four elected Supervisors, and the community to develop a fair and equitable solution through a transparent, negotiated process.
County Supervisors are obligated to honor the benefits earned by current and retired employees. However, as public servants, the Supervisors are also obligated to ensure the protection of essential county services, which includes investing in the long-term health and wellness of County residents by:
1. Making the necessary investments to implement the Affordable Health Care Act effectively;
2. Expanding nutrition and other programs for our growing senior population; and
3. Supporting foster children, families in poverty, at-risk youth, and other vulnerable populations.
The Governor and State Legislature are beginning to address the structural issues in California’s state employee pension system (CalPERS) by applying a different formula for new employees. County leadership will need to evaluate new approaches as they renegotiate union contracts over the next several months to effectively address the problem of unfunded liabilities and ensure the sustainability of services over the long term.
We simply cannot continue with business as usual. We need to find new ways and means to get the job done. There will be challenges, no doubt, but with an honest approach to problem solving and a re-dedication to avoid passing our problems along to our children, the County can provide better services and put our fiscal house in order.