California is rapidly running out of money to pay for even the most basic services; it’s the perfect time, think some in the Assembly, to add to the Golden State’s fiscal burden.According to this scathing Sacramento Bee editorial, Assembly Bill 2451, which is sponsored by the state’s highway patrol and firefighter unions, “removes the statute of limitations for job-related survivor death benefits for peace officers and firefighters.”So, more benefits for the families of cops and firefighters who die because of job-related ailments—what’s not to like?Plenty, as the Bee points out. Under the new rules, for example, if a state worker retires at 60 and dies of a heart attack 20 years later, his widow or even children could claim a benefit of $250,000. This effectively amounts to a taxpayer funded life-insurance policy for state workers:
Proponents argue this bill would help provide for a widow whose firefighter or police officer spouse dies prematurely of cancer six years after filing a workers’ compensation claim, just a little beyond the current 4 1/2-year statute of limitations for a death benefit. Supporters insist the widow should not lose the death benefit because modern medicine allowed her husband to linger beyond the statute of limitations.But this bill goes well beyond that heart-tugging scenario. Its practical effect is to give every police officer, every firefighter, every prison guard or park ranger a taxpayer-funded life insurance policy. To pay for that extraordinary benefit, services will have to be cut. In some jurisdictions, even police and firefighters could be laid off to pay for it.
But surely a bill like this would never pass, you say. On the contrary, it has already passed the state Assembly by a 69-4 vote with strong bipartisan support and has had a similar response in early tests in the State Senate.Apparently, the public union backlash we saw a few months ago in San Diego and San Jose hasn’t spread to Sacramento yet. But if unions continue to push programs like this while schools are closing and prisons are failing, the backlash will come soon enough.