Cal Fire Local 2881 v. California Public Employees' Retirement SystemAnnotate this Case
California firefighters and their union sought to compel the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to continue to enforce Government Code 20909, and allow eligible public employees to purchase at cost up to five years of nonqualifying service credit (airtime) to increase pension benefits paid in retirement, by increasing their service credit. The option was eliminated as of January 1, 2013 under the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA), a reform measure designed to strengthen the state’s public pension system and ensure its ongoing solvency. (Government Code 7522.46, 20909(g)). Plaintiffs argued that elimination of the option violated the California Constitution contracts clause (Art. I, section 9), so that CalPERS lacked authority to refuse to consider applications for the credit. The trial court and court of appeal rejected the argument. Modification of the statute governing airtime service credit was wholly reasonable and carried “some material relation to the theory of a pension system and its successful operation.” Plaintiffs are entitled only to a “reasonable” pension, not one providing fixed or definite benefits immune from modification or elimination by the governing body, and did not establish that elimination of their right to purchase airtime credit cost them their right to a reasonable pension.