In the category of 'tell us something that we don't know,' Gov. Jerry Brown offered this quip on Wednesday morning before he signed a long debated government worker pension revamp into law:
"It's not perfect, because we don't deal with perfection in politics. We deal with imperfection."
And with that, the governor who in 2011 described his pension reform plan the "bare minimum" signed into law a sweeping but nonetheless smaller proposal, one that took an entire legislative year to bring to fruition.
Ratified by the Legislature late last month, the pension law's basics are pretty well known: smaller pensions and longer public sector careers for future workers, more sharing on pension costs for current workers -- most notably, those who work for local governments.
Also well known is that the law, which will take effect next year, is unloved by both labor unions and by the most conservative critics of public sector pensions.
While we support elements of the package that end pension spiking and other abuses of the system," said union coalition spokesman Dave Low, "the new law slashes benefits to pre-Reagan levels with an end-run around collective bargaining."
And from a GOP pension critic in the Legislature, state Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel: "We remain disappointed with the lack of substantive long-term solutions to our massive unfunded pension liability."
Lawmakers, of course, argue that when both sides hate something, that means it must be the right thing to do.
The governor, at today's Los Angeles event, seemed to be especially mindful of those who say the new rules were too timid for a pension system that could be chronically underfunded.
"It's good to be careful and look at what you've done," said Brown. "And then you can refine it, as you learn from your experience."
Pension fund researchers say the changes will save billions of dollars over the long haul, and the governor touted one of the law's more interesting elements: the imposition by the state of new pension rules for cities and counties.
"We take the handcuffs off of local government," he said. That's an interesting take on the law, given that the pension promises made by local officials were done willingly through collective bargaining with unions. And whereas numerous fights in recent years at the state Capitol have been about locals demanding less Sacramento mandates, this time locals were essentially pleading for a statewide system.
What no one can answer, of course, is whether the newly signed law will be enough to quell the political clamor for pension reform, and how the voters will reflect on the deal -- or if they'll reflect on it -- when they fill out their ballot on Proposition 30, the governor's tax increase that's already been written into the state budget.