Serious proposals to reform pensions of public sector workers finally are coming forward – Gov. Jerry Brown offered a plan that takes modest steps and the latest is a promising initiative advocated by a former assembly member.

They come none too soon. A Stanford University study last year showed that state worker pension liabilities are as much as $500 billion higher than the money available to pay for them. Many cities are suffering from the ever-growing bite that pension obligations are taking out of general funds.

The proposed initiative by Roger Niello, a former Republican assemblyman from the Sacramento area, would amend the California constitution and affect all state and local public agencies. Among other things, for current and future employees, Mr. Niello would limit retirement benefits to “no more than 60 percent of the highest annual average base wage.” Currently, some retirees can qualify to receive 90 percent of their former salaries.

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