Of Public Pensions and The Tin-Pot Dictators of California

It is all over the media now, this newest California Public Pension fiasco known as Air Time. With laws like this in place, how can The (Formerly) Golden State ever hope to recover? From the LATimes:

Tens of thousands of California state workers are taking advantage of a perk that pays them pension benefits for years they don’t actually work, and reformers looking for places to cut have put it at the top of the list.

State law allows the employees to increase their retirement benefits by tacking up to five fictitious years — known as “air time” — onto their public service. Although they pay a fee for the privilege and officials say it is high enough to cover the eventual payouts, critics of air time note that the boost can cost taxpayers millions when the state pension system’s investment income falls short, as it has in recent years.

Air time offers a return nearly twice as generous as a similar benefit — known as an annuity — that can be purchased on the private market, said Dan Pellissier, who advised former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on pensions. Pellissier, who as a state employee purchased five years’ credit, is now pushing to eliminate air time as president of California Pension Reform.

One can immediately see how this has become such a problem. Just look at the difference it makes for our beloved unionized public employees:

It’s a phenomenal deal for retirees, but it’s an absolute fleecing of the taxpayers,” said Scott Hanson, a principal in Sacramento-based investment firm Hanson McClain.

Hanson said he gets calls about air time frequently and advises nearly all state employees to sign up. It offers a guaranteed 7% to 8% return, as opposed to a 3% return available for similar investments in the private sector, he said.

And proving yet again that our State’s leaders are completely incompetent and should all resign immediately, there is this statement:

The fees collected from state workers buying air time are poured into the state pension fund, which suffered devastating losses during the recession. In 2003, the taxpayers’ contribution to that fund was about 7% of workers’ salaries. This year it will be 23% — or $4 billion — to help absorb the losses, according to Brown’s proposed budget.

State officials said they could not determine how much, if any, of that sum would go to air-time payouts.

How anyone should remain employed after that last statement is just beyond belief. Would…could a private enterprise ever be able to state that?

And how did all this come about?

The inspiration for air time came from a group of Senate and Assembly staffers determined to recoup the pension credit they lost while running their bosses’ election campaigns — when their salaries must be paid with private money, not by taxpayers.

Lawmakers helped them out in 2002 by passing a bill granting them the right to buy air time, but then-Gov. Gray Davis vetoed it. The next year, a measure was passed that gave the same rights to all state employees rather than just lawmakers’ aides.

Notice the date? Sure Gov. Davis vetoed it…originally. Until he was being recalled and needed the unionized public employees assistance. He then signed it into law as payback for their ‘tireless efforts’. Remember how the teachers were saying it was “all about the children”?

This also exposes how Democrats are able to do so well in elections. Public employees are so overpaid that they can take time off to assist candidates who will feather their nests.

Disgusting isn’t it?

The reform that comes out of this should include a law prohibiting state employees from working on campaigns. The Feds should adopt a similar stance. In fact, in looking at the U.S. Constitution and the reasons for establishing the District of Columbia, an incredibly strong argument can be made to prohibiting government employees from participating in any way on elections for their level of government. Federal employees should not be allowed to work on, contribute to, or vote in, federal elections. State workers should not be allowed to work on, contribute to, or vote in, state elections.

It is amazing that this part of the constitution has never been utilized.

A Tip-of-the-hat to Jim for this article.


One Response

  1. Each firefighter in San Jose, CA costs the city $140,000.
    Average teacher salary in CA is $70,430. per NEA.
    Benefits include retirement at 55, with NO employee contributions, free medical coverage for life for the entire family.

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