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Gov. Jerry Brown talks pensions, prisons at police chiefs meeting

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Gov. Jerry Brown told hundreds of police chiefs Tuesday that curbs on their pensions may be needed to solve the state’s long-term budget crisis.

‘I didn’t take my retirement at 50,’ the 72-year-old governor told the California Police Chiefs Assn. in Anaheim. ‘In fact, if you want to stabilize this pension system, we need a lot more people working until they’re 72.’

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His comments elicited some uneasy laughter.

‘I know some of you might not be ready for that,’ Brown added, ‘but we’re going to have to deal with pensions. That’s going to be part of the program.’

Many Republican lawmakers have said they would like to see changes to the public pension system before voting to put Brown’s plan to extend billions in taxes on a special-election ballot. Brown, too, has outlined some basic pillars of a pension overhaul plan.

However, even many supporters of pension reform for public employees have balked at trimming benefits for police and firefighters. For example, Meg Whitman, Brown’s Republican opponent in the gubernatorial race, had advocated a 401(k)-style system for most state workers, but not police and firefighters.

Brown, by contrast, said Tuesday that he would consider changes to public employee retirement benefits, including a cap, and said law enforcement should not be exempt. ‘Everything needs to be looked at,’ he said.

Brown also explained his decision to back off on plans to shift incarceration and parole of thousands of prisoners to state and county governments, saying that crime prevention, and cheaper, local sanctions are needed. ‘You can’t arrest yourself out of the problem of crime,’ he said. The concession made political sense, too, he said. ‘We can’t fight everybody,’ he said.

-- Anthony York in Anaheim


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