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California's Pension Poison

With Stockton’s bankruptcy battle decided on Thursday (Final score: Creditors, 0; CalPERS, 1), California’s public pension holders must be breathing sighs of relief. But taxpayers shouldn’t rest easy; the full extent of the state’s problems is breathtaking, and its politicians are just postponing the painful day when it finally must be sorted out. So says Steven Greenhut in a scathing takedown of the state’s pension policies in the American Spectator. When the going is good in California, it is very, very good:

Most so-called “public-safety” employees—police, firefighters, prison guards, billboard inspectors, school security guards, cooks at prisons, etc.—are eligible for the “3 percent at 50” plan. That means they receive 3 percent of their final pay times the number of years worked, and it is available to them at age 50. (It’s usually calculated on base pay and not overtime, but overtime counts in some jurisdictions.) Thus, if a Newport Beach lifeguard earns $150,000 a year, after thirty years he receives 90 percent of that pay—or $135,000 a year—for the rest of his life and his spouse’s life. The retirement ages are so low that in some cities taxpayers are paying for an entire second ghost workforce behind the one that’s actually doing the job. (New York City already is past that tipping point, as taxpayers there pay more retired cops than active ones.)

The state is generous, but is anyone making sure it can pay the tab?

[A] judge in Ventura County pre-emptively halted an election that would have asked voters to reform that county’s pension system. A Sacramento County judge even tossed the portion of the CalSTRS reform that required teachers to pitch in a little more toward their pensions (in exchange for vesting other benefits, given that it is illegal in California to reduce public-employee benefits without giving something equal or greater in exchange).

In late August, the CalPERS board—you know, the same board run by union activists and union-controlled politicians—voted on a measure that effectively obliterates even the modest pension reform that Brown and company passed as a tax-raising window dressing.

Here’s how it works: Currently, existing state and local employees get all sorts of special pay. There are ninety-nine extra-pay categories, most of which should induce mockery and anger. Librarians, for instance, are paid extra for helping library patrons find books. Police are paid extra for driving alone in patrol cars. Fire chiefs get special management pay. Gardeners get paid extra for fixing sprinklers. Those categories have existed since the 1990s, but a few years ago CalPERS decided that they should also be used when it’s time to calculate an employee’s pension—thereby inflating the final base pay and ensuring higher pension benefits for many years to come.

Read the whole thing here.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Back when the leftists weren’t in control California was a good place to live. Now with the leftists in control, it is going swiftly in the direction of Detroit. People and Businesses are already voting with their feet and leaving for Red Model states where they can have a future. I think we can expect to see this exodus accelerate in the future, until there aren’t enough tax payers to support the burden, and then the stupid evil leftists will hopefully get hung from the lamp posts.

  • Charles Hurst

    Jacksonian below said it. I was an independent contractor in California once. I left as I don’t believe my dollar should go to anyone the Leftist/Marxist feels is “according to need.” Capitalists don’t like living in Marxist states. And the end result of California is rapidly becoming just like every country that has tried the Marxist utopia–it only works on the college campus.

    Never in history has Marxist policy increased the standard of living for a nation. As a matter
    of fact it has greatly reduced it—every single time. So Mr. Progressive, begin
    your tirade—history still says you’re a lunatic to believe somehow, this time
    Marxist policy will be successful. Kind of like the Marxist policy of ACA.

    And the next anti reason statement from the Progressive will be that Obama is not a Marxist. Feel free to look up the definition of Marxism. From each according to ability—to
    each according to need. Like ACA—where one who earns more supplements with
    higher premiums for one who does not. And attempted takeover of means of
    production. Demanding businesses follow this proposed policy or that one for
    the “inequality” of pay on whatever victim they choose for that week.

    Marxism. Exactly the above. And with continued implementation we will continue to plummet. As it was once said: “Eventually you run out of other peoples’ money.” Obama’s entire
    agenda was to take from the producer and give to the non producer. That’s what
    he has done since day one. And we have an entire youth that is fine with it—as
    long as they have enough for a shack and bottle of vodka. And pretty soon the
    rest of us will look like Russia as well.

    I predict total economic collapse in my fiction followed by tyranny. Not because I’m a sage,
    but because I based my work on this wonderful professor known as History. And
    the thing with this lecturer is he tends to repeat himself on the podium.

    Charles Hurst. Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat story of Armageddon. And creator of THE RUNNINGWOLF EZINE

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