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In California’s capital of Sacramento, rapid transit has been in terrible shape, but not for lack of spending on management. As we noted, after hiring Mike Wiley as manager, the RT district plunged into financial distress, tapping reserve accounts to balance its budget and raising fares 10 percent. Though a major bust as transit boss, Wiley was eligible for a pension of $278,000, a full $48,000 more than his final salary of $230,000 and $68,000 higher than the federal pension maximum of $210,000. He opted for a plan that will pay him $220,000 a year, a full $10,000 above the federal maximum. The district kept Wiley on the job as a “retired annuitant,” while hiring new boss Henry Li.
On Li’s watch, the district’s emergency account is “still anemic,” fares remain among the highest in the nation, and ridership has dropped. In two years, according to news reports, the district could face an annual shortfall of $3.6 million on debt payments. Even so, the district does not hesitate to throw money at Henry Li.
His new five-year deal boosts his pay 33 percent to a total compensation package of $379,000. Some locals told reporters the huge raise was “tone deaf,” but there’s more to it than that. The whopper package is not based on Li’s job performance but as RT board chairman and Folsom mayor Andy Morin put it, on “what other transit chiefs make.” That’s a good deal for Li, who like Mike Wiley will be eligible for a pension higher than his salary. Like other ruling-class largesse, it’s a bad deal for California’s embattled taxpayers, recently slammed with a $5.2 billion hike in gasoline taxes and vehicle fees.