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A Hedge-Fund Billionare From Texas is Waging War On California Pensions

The Arnold Foundation is clearly in the forefront of nationwide efforts to scale back pensions for state and municipal workers.

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The Arnold Foundation, McGee wrote, works with state and local communities to provide policy information and technical assistance to help them develop pension reforms. He said that a ballot initiative is just one tool to improve the retirement system, and added that the foundation “does not promote or fund ballot initiatives.” He also acknowledged that he attended the pension summit in Sacramento.

“We discussed the need to deal responsibly with accumulated pension debt, secure benefits that have already been earned, and create a system that is affordable, sustainable, and secure,” McGee stated.

Others believe the Arnold Foundation has its eye on California in order to promote public employee pension cutbacks across the nation. The foundation’s thinking, Maviglio says, is that “if liberal California can do it, it can happen anywhere.”

In many ways, Benjamin Gamboa, the 30-year-old research analyst at Crafton Hills College, is typical of those employees who find themselves in the pension-cutters’ crosshairs. Working at a community college, he believes, is serving the public good by helping students to reach their goals.

“I love what I do, and I love the security of my job,” he says. “My plan is to retire with a pension just large enough to spoil my grandkids.” He says that his hope and expectation will be for a pension of about $30,000 a year. “I want to enjoy the simple things,” he says. “There are no European vacations in my future.”

He adds that he is concerned to hear about the continuing efforts to limit his and other workers’ pensions.

“To attack the work I do and the security I treasure . . .” he says, then pauses. “It’s heart-wrenching. It’s demoralizing.”

An investigative reporter for more than three decades, Gary Cohn won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 1998 for his series The Shipbreakers, detailing the dangers to workers and the environment when old ships are dismantled. Reach him with comments or story ideas at

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