Californians Grow More Critical Of Public Employee Pensions

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(CBS/AP)

Phil Matier
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Well-publicized cases of public employees abusing the system to enrich themselves have helped sour the public perception of public employee benefits, according to a new poll.

A Field Poll released Thursday shows 42 percent of California voters now think public pension benefits are too generous, compared to the 34 percent who think they’re at the right level.

“Two years ago when we asked the same question, more people thought they were at about the right level, then thought they were too generous,” said Mark DiCamillo, the poll director.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

The scandal in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell where several city workers paid themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars started to change people’s minds, he said.

The Field Poll finds public skepticism about whether government employee benefits are too generous now extends beyond bureaucrats to include teachers, firefighters and police, DiCamillo said.

“We’re talking about all public officials,” he said.

California’s pension system is the country’s largest with 1.6 million employees. Governor Jerry Brown has proposed reforming public sector benefits as part of his plan to close the state’s $26 billion deficit, a proposal that could be key in winning Republican support.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier traced Californians’ shifting attitudes to the headline grabbing pensions of a small number of retiring public officials.

Matier notes that most public workers will not strike gold when they start collecting in their golden years, a fact sometimes obscured when a police chief or fire chief retires with a large pension.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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