Pension plans, including those in government, include contributions by the employer and the employee. The employee contribution of Susan Muranishi, an administrator in Alameda County, was $43,000, an amount higher than the gross salaries of 1,861 Alameda County government employees. But in a little-known ploy known as the “pension pickup,” embattled taxpayers wound up paying the contribution Muranishi should have made herself. And she would have paid it with the greatest of ease.
Last year Muranishi’s gross pay was $462,000, more than the $400,000 base salary of Barack Obama, President of the United States, and more than twice the $165,288 annual pay of California governor Jerry Brown. Both men have just a few more responsibilities than any county-level bureaucrat. Taxpayers contribute an additional $118,000 to Muranishi’s retirement plan last year, and she also gets $24,000 in equity pay, $54,000 in longevity pay, an annual performance bonus of $24,000, a car allowance of $8,292 a year, and $9,000 a year for serving on the Surplus Property Authority. That fat package hardly diminishes in retirement when Muranishi, 63, will receive $423,664 a year for the rest of her life. She also enjoys a separate private pension plan, for which Alameda County pays $46,500 a year. But the Alameda administrator is not the only beneficiary of a pension pickup.
In 2012, at least 117 public agencies in northern California picked up a portion of their employees’ retirement contributions. The total number statewide and nationwide is unknown, and government is not eager to come clean, even as they struggle to control rising pension costs. Taxpayers across the nation have every right to demand an accounting but some realities are evident.
Absurd salaries and benefits do not guarantee efficient government. In recent years, Alameda County has faced deficits of $182 million, cut services and eliminated hundreds of jobs—but not the pricey post of Susan Muranishi. Government costs are out of control because politicians indulge pampered, overpaid, and overpensioned bureaucrats, whose sense of entitlement would shame Marie Antoinette. It’s all part of the waste, abuse and fraud inherent in a system geared to enrichment of the ruling class and looting of taxpayers.