The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
California’s Pampered Public Employees

How bad is California’s public employee compensation problem? If nurses collecting $1 million in overtime pay and highway patrol officers making $500,000 are any indication, “bad” doesn’t cover the half of it. From Bloomberg (the first in a five-part series):

In California, Governor Jerry Brown hasn’t curbed overtime expenses that lead the 12 largest states or limited payments for accumulated vacation time that allowed one employee to collect $609,000 at retirement in 2011. The 74-year-old Democrat has continued requiring workers to take an unpaid day off each month, which could burden the state with new costs in the future.

Last year, Brown waived a cap on accrued leave for prison guards while granting them additional paid days off. California’s liability for the unused leave of its state workers has more than doubled in eight years, to $3.9 billion in 2011, from $1.4 billion in 2003, according to the state’s annual financial reports.

Increasing pay for prison guards and psychiatrists who deal with the mentally ill seems like a cause worthy of our sympathy and support, but politicians are more likely responding to the threat that union leaders could muscle them out of office if they don’t keep the funds flowing.

This has got to change. Public sector unions in states like California have squeezed every fringe benefit out of the state government you can imagine, from “arduous-duty” pay, to bonuses for “the complex workload and level and knowledge required to receive and respond to consumer calls.” These are not the demands of people who have the state’s well-being in mind.

Watch for part two of the Bloomberg report tomorrow. In the meantime, read the first one here.

Published on December 11, 2012 5:51 pm