CalPERS Spikes the Cost of Government

Monday August 25th, 2014   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 6:54am PDT   •  


“More than a year after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law he said would tamp down pension spiking,” noted Jon Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee, “the state’s biggest public pension fund is on the verge of adopting rules critics say would undermine its intent.” That pension fund, CalPERS, went on to adopt the new rules in a 7-5 vote, and that is bad news for taxpayers.

Government workers will exploit the new rules to bag larger pensions than they would otherwise have received. CalPERS has authorized, count ‘em, 99 types of special payments counting toward pension calculations. These include: longevity pay, police marksmanship certification pay, physical fitness pay, smog inspector license pay, notary pay, cement finisher pay and holiday pay. The only one of the 99 that drew an objection from Gov. Jerry Brown was temporary upgrade pay. He’s evidently on board with all the rest.

As the Bee noted in an editorial, cops could get bigger pensions if they are physically fit or a good shot. But “shouldn’t all cops be fit and shoot straight?” Cops could also get bigger pensions if they pull duty on drug abuse programs in schools, bust drunk drivers, find fugitives, fight gangs, direct traffic, or work the front desk. These are all standard tasks for police officers and hardly merit special consideration. Likewise, firefighters would qualify for bigger pensions for inspecting buildings and investigating fires, which is kind of what they do. Librarians can goose their pension by telling patrons where to find resources. “We love librarians,” the Bee said. “But isn’t assisting patrons fundamental to what librarians do?”

It is, and so is the other stuff. Taxpayers should bear in mind that government employee pensions, like their salaries, are already inflated. That is particularly true for police and firefighters. This is the ruling class rewarding itself by ripping off embattled taxpayers, who already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation. In the Golden State, the Frank Zappa rule always applies. Politicians and government employees are number one. Workers and taxpayers aren’t even number two.

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August 2014
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