Former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi speaking at a candidate’s forum for the 10th State Senate District Wednesday evening at the Fremont City Council chambers. PHOTO/Steve Tavares 

STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | State Senate candidate Mary Hayashi said talk of California’s demise through unfunded public employee pension liabilities is unfounded. “There is no problem,” Hayashi said of the state’s promises made to state employee pensions. The comments came at a forum in Fremont for candidates eyeing the open 10th State Senate District seat.

Responding to a question on pension reform, Hayashi asked why the same level of criticism is not lodged against banks for their role in the state’s fiscal problems. “The reason for that: It’s called scapegoating,” she said. “There is no problem.” She added the state’s pension system, CalPERS, “does well.” Instead, she said, the discussion should be about equal pay for women and “How much teachers are paid and are they secure.”

Conversely, Peter Kuo, the lone Republican in the race, said the state needs to keep its promises to state workers, but acknowledges pensions are “out of whack” and could bankrupt California cities. “I don’t think it’s going to go away,” said Kuo.

Roman Reed, a Democrat like Hayashi and another candidate in the race, Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski who did not attend Wednesday evening’s forum, charged the media with fueling outrage against state workers. As a state senator, said Reed, “I couldn’t’ look my family in the eye if pensions are touched.”

Sacramento needs legislators willing to make difficult budget choices despite intense lobbying from their campaign donors, said former Assemblymember Audie Bock. “It’s not the only problem,” the former Green Party member running this June as an independent said of the pension issue. Counties are getting help from Sacramento, added Bock, but cities are not getting their fair share. In the meantime, issues like pensions are disproportionately affecting local municipalities, she said. “We are looking at the impoverishment of our cities at the state’s hands.”