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As Lawrence McQuillan has noted, unfunded pension liabilities have soared to $4.7 trillion nationwide and California accounts for $550 billion to $750 billion of the total.
A case outlined by Brad Branan in the Sacramento Bee shows why California is a leader in this field.
In Loomis, near Sacramento, town councilman Brad Wheeler was collecting a pension of $137,000 a year from a job in Alameda County, but that gold-plated payout wasn’t enough for him. The “retired annuitant” continued to pull down the $137,000 while bagging $60,000 as a part-time fire chief for the Loomis Fire Protection District. Such double-dipping by retired annuitants is common in California, but an administrative judge has ruled that Mr. Wheeler violated state law. Local whistleblowers told Branan the Loomis Fire District never acknowledged the violations. Attorneys for Mr. Wheeler and the District claim he did nothing wrong.
As Branan notes, a judge ruled Wheeler should pay back the $460,000 in benefits he illegally received while working for the Loomis district. According to the ruling, Wheeler and the district and should pay CalPERS for employee and employer contributions owed to the fund during his employment in Loomis. The CalPERS board will vote on the proposed decision on Oct. 21. Even if they approve the payback, which is not a sure thing, this will not solve California’s massive pension problem.
The Golden State maintains defined benefit pensions now soaring out of control. Government employees can still spike their pensions and retire in their 50s, in some cases with 90 percent of their peak salary for life. Nothing will change until the state moves to a defined-contribution system. Former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed is promoting a ballot measure along those lines. The ruling class of government employee unions and double-dippers opposes the measure and all common-sense pension reforms.