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Still, he said the union assertion that the average state employee earns a $26,000 annual pension is distorted.

Calls for pension reform have been at the center of budget battles at the Capitol, as Republicans have demanded deep rollbacks in exchange for considering a special election on taxes. Brown has offered his own fixes, such as ending the practice of spiking, where employees pad their pension rates with large raises in the final year of their service.

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Pension advocates say that the $700 billion unfunded liability estimate is not accurate, in part because the California Public Employees Retirement System fund has rebounded to $240 billion from a low of $160 billion with two straight years of 12 percent market gains. That means the difference between the total pension liability and the reserves available to cover that obligation has narrowed.

that bring the annual retirement income to nearly $90,000 for many.

Pellissier, an official in the Schwarzenegger administration, conceded that six figure pensions that make the headlines such as those revealed following the city of Bell's scandals are unusual, but "that's what gets people's attention."

The Legislature last year replaced the 1999 pension agreement with a new one that includes higher employee contributions, which is expected to save the state $400 million. Senate Democrats, with the help of two Republicans, this week approved ratification of a contract with six public employee groups that rolls back some benefits; it now goes to the Assembly, where it needs two Republicans to reach two thirds approval.

Those seeking pension rollbacks point to a Stanford University study showing that California has as much as a $700 billion unfunded liability a figure disputed by union advocates. Hefty pensions for longtime public employees will drag on the state's economy without significant reforms, critics say.

California public employees defend 'modest' pension benefits

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"They selectively draw attention to headlines about the few inexcusable cases of abuse," said Martha Penry, a special education teacher's assistant who said she will be "very lucky" to collect $800 a month from her pension when she retires after 25 years. "And they continue to spread myths and falsehoods about public employee pensions."

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Dan Pellissier, the president of California Pension Reform, said he's a few weeks away from submitting a pension reform initiative that he hopes to get on the June 2012 ballot at a time when a broad majority of voters support rollbacks.

According to reporting by Bay Area News Group, the average salary of a 30 year state employee is actually $67,000, on top of Social Security benefits Nike Air Max 95 Essential Triple Black

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Public employees, saying they are tired of being lumped together with the few who have been snared in pension scandals, struck back Wednesday with what they called their own "truth squad" on pensions at the Capitol.

His initiative would cap the amount that government agencies can pay employees at the private Nike Air Max 2012 White

sector average of about 6 percent for most 9 percent for public safety officers. New employees would get 401(k) style benefits. Currently, there is no cap.

One longtime teacher's aide at the news conference accused "out of state billionaires and corporate interests whose greed led Air Max Heels to California's budget mess" of leading attacks on unions to divert the blame from themselves.

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David Miller, a senior hazardous substance scientist for the state, said he passed up opportunities to go into the private sector, saying he was willing to forgo that for the promise of retiring on $50,000 a year.

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The website accuses a number of Republicans as responsible for spreading misinformation in California, including two former officials under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, several GOP lawmakers and an "anonymous" out of state billionaire, a reference to the Koch brothers, who have been accused of targeting collective bargaining rights and public pensions around the country.

In actuality, Penry and others said, most public workers receive modest pension benefits after long public service.

"That average is weighted with people who worked for a short period and retired a long time ago at low salaries," he said.

"That's tough sledding ". and even that's under threat," he said.

Others, including Gov. Jerry Brown's administration, put the liability at $200 billion to $500 billion. However, Brown and Democrats point out that the benefits cost $3.4 billion annually from the general fund, only 4 percent of the entire $85 billion budget.

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