California lawmakers pounce on the messenger

March 3, 2011

California lawmakers on Wednesday reacted skeptically to a new proposal to lower public employee pensions throughout state and local government. [SacramentoBee]

Stuart Drown, the executive director of the Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy, known as the Little Hoover Commission, testified before a joint session of California Assembly and Senate committees that oversee public employee compensation that the current system is unsustainable and has become a program that seeks wealth accumulation for public employees.

In a recent report, the Commission warns that failure to make changes now will have dire consequences including severely reduced services to the public.

The report says that governments can’t wait for decades for a lower pension benefits for newly hired workers to take hold, they need to cut what it pays current employees. And that legal obstacles that have been limiting changes to existing employee pension plans need to be challenged.

Drowns’s testimony resulted in a hailstorm of criticism from elected officials and union leaders.

“If you reduce pensions you’re going to reduce the supply of people available to do this job,” said Craig Brown, who represents state correctional officers, among other public employees. “Harming pensions will simply push up other parts of the compensation package.”



  1. choprzrul says:

    Give me 30 seconds and I will show you how to reduce the cost of incarcerating people for the state of California by 90%:

    Based on some wikipedia numbers, I am estimating that we spend roughly $70,000 per year per prisoner, or about 11 BILLION dollars a year.


    Contract all 200,000 or so California prisoners to a Mexican company. Transport all prisoners south of the border to a mexican prison. At the end of their sentence, US citizens will be transported to their home of record.

    I can’t even begin to imagine how much competition there would be to grab a 1 BILLION dollar contract with the state of CA by companies in mexico.

    Problem solved.

    (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
  2. mrcyberdoc says:

    I’m a bit confused here… all this talk about unions. As a retired state worker of 35 years, our retirement system was in place long before unions became an issue. Both the state and the individual contributed the same amount monthly toward retirement through the CalPers retirement system. I think what the article is talking about points toward the state’s monthly contribution as not being sustainable. I believe it is 7.5%. Being part of the history of this over 3 decades I can say with certainty that state workers received better treatment, compensation, raises, etc. BEFORE the unions appeared. They will try and tell you their “negotiations” have improved the pay and retirement of state workers. In reality it’s called divide and conquer, speaking of my time at Cal Poly. We had unions representing faculty, and staff which was divided into several representations. It seemed to create nothing but dissension among the workers which was not the case before unions appeared. Unions took our money, said they represented us, but as usual, were not reasonable and did nothing but cause impasse between the chancellors office and the university workers. If you go to the CalPers page you will find they are very healthy and actually netted over 10% on their investments last year which is quite commendable considering our economy is terrible.

    (11) 15 Total Votes - 13 up - 2 down
  3. bobfromsanluis says:

    Wow, so much misinformation swirling about; first off, union dues are not allowed, by law, to be used for political donations. Any monies collected by unions to be used as political donations have to collected just for that purpose with the members being fully aware that that is what that money is to be used for. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
    As for the pensions being underfunded, there are two separate but equally disturbing “facts” that most conservatives would prefer not to face-up or realize. Why is it that many states skirted the law that mandates that pensions be fully funded by keeping up with the mandated contributions? By law the contributions are supposed to be kept up, but many states including California choose to ignore what was required.
    The other problem contributing to the underfunding is the poor performance of the pension funds on Wall Street; the fleecing of too many 401k plans and pension funds based on the highly dubious “derivatives” that were invented by the banksters (that were backed up by the equally bad ratings agencies) that then went crying to the previous administration and received the $700 BILLION bailout. If all of you fiscal conservatives really want to see our pension funds replenished, why not push our Congressional Representatives to go after those crooked Wall Street firms that ripped us off TWICE ? Of course with a Republican majority in the House, nothing will ever happen to endanger their richest donors, instead all the focus will be directed at government workers, especially if they are in a union.

    (5) 23 Total Votes - 14 up - 9 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      I forgot to agree that the pensions do need to be reformed so that there can be no more spiking of pensions by adding sick leave and vacation time and overtime. The pensions should only be formulated on an average of a few years with no extra weight added for the last year either.

      (5) 13 Total Votes - 9 up - 4 down
  4. Russ J says:

    Its’ simple – union dues pay for the election of these politicians who negotiate the public employee contracts. A complete conflict of interest being that they are elected to represent the majority of Californians, not this minority of State workers. Unfortunately the voting population is too stupid to figure it out or just doesn’t care.

    (13) 27 Total Votes - 20 up - 7 down
  5. SewerHeightsRez says:

    My brother in law just retired from the CCPOA (Ca Correctional Peace Officers Assoc) at the age of 50 after 30 years membership and a rank of Sergeant. For the last 8 or 10 years of his career he made roughly 100k per year. The last year, 2010, (the year his lifetime pension is calculated from) he cashed in accumulated sick and vacation pay which spiked his salary up to 146k. This resulted in his pension being granted at 131k per year for life, or roughly 131% of his normal salary. Add to this lifetime medical with virtually no co-pay.

    He has never in his life stepped foot into a college classroom. There are thousands just like him, and they fear and despise you, the common sucker civilian tax payer. Not surprisingly, for every job opening there are hundreds of applicants hoping to win this modern day version of the lottery. They claim their job is dangerous and it is, yet there are many more dangerous occupations all of which pay a fraction of the total comp our public union workers make. They are grossly, hideously, overpaid. The 86% of the working population in the private sector who pay taxes understand this.

    Naturally, the unions and their membership attempt every self serving trick in the book to justify their unjustified comp – they represent working stiffs, dangerous work, corporate ceo’s are worse crooks, shut up you stoopid taxpayer or we’ll let your house get robbed and burn down, every evasive excuse to keep the cash rolling in.

    The system is fueled by nepotism, self dealing, favoritism, greed, and invincible arrogance – in other words, corruption. Normally the American public has a very low tolerance for corruption, but public corruption here has reached a point nearing banana tin-horn republics and eastern Europe where the ability of the average citizen to affect change is virtually impossible.

    (32) 68 Total Votes - 50 up - 18 down
    • hotdog says:

      I guess one would say you have a strong opinion. I actually gave you a thumbs up, for you are well spoken and make a good point. I am pro union, but not pro corruption. The manipulation you point out in the first paragraph is a good place to start on all this, knock all that off. No sick pay and other stuff computed in the last year, only base salary. Period.
      And we may have to ask public workers to take a small dive in wages, like the rest of the economy. But without fail we must make the richest and those at the top pay their fair share-we are getting ripped off by the fat cats way more than the hordes of workers like your b in law.
      I am just amazed the palinistas, becks and so on can actually convince the slobs at the bottom of the barrel to support them and other rich people. Exquisite propaganda perfected in the health care debate (such as the bogus ‘death panel’ controversy put out by the same liars mentioned above).

      (-6) 48 Total Votes - 21 up - 27 down
      • ds_gray says:

        Please to educate us all what ‘fair share’ exactly is, other than Democratic Party talking points designed to give the illusion that so-called rich people don’t pay taxes. There are several obvious points I wish to make;
        1) No poor person ever hired a single employee,
        2) The Internal Revenue Code is based on PERCENTAGE – earn more, pay more (seems pretty fair),
        3) Said percentage increases rapidly, based on income, such that at the top bracket, someone making 375k / yr (arguably not rich, but not hurting) will pay 35% of income in taxes,
        4) Deductions are a form of social engineering and designed to alter behavior; the tax code has been used for decades to manipulate the public to spend money on solar panels, biofuels, etc and can allow anyone (including me, not just ‘fat cats’) to reduce taxable liability to almost ZERO,
        5) In the current economic climate, the top 10% of wage earners in this country pay 85% of the personal income taxes collected,
        6) Most income to the treasury comes from CORPORATE taxes, not personal income taxes,
        7) even if ALL the “rich” people paid 50% more in taxes, there just aren’t enough of them out there to make a dent in the budget deficit. They get whacked in a down economy, too.

        Based on these points, it is clear that a flat-tax structure needs to be implemented, the IRS needs to be scrapped, people who make money need to be allowed to KEEP it, so they’ll spend it and create jobs. The answer is not ‘stick it to the rich guy’ as if they won some kind of lottery and owe it to the rest of us! Remember: Socialism is a great idea until everybody else runs out of money!

        (11) 27 Total Votes - 19 up - 8 down
    • Areyouforreal says:

      I sorry to burst your bubble but your facts are wrong! Either, your brother in law is liar or your making this stuff up. I am a CCPOA member and I can verify that there’s no way your brother-in-law is making “131k per year for life, or roughly 131% of his normal salary.”

      First of all, the states retirement formula for CCPOA’s members pays a maximum of 90% of your regular salary and that’s after 30 years of state service. A Sergeant makes a maximum salary of 84K per year and that would put his retirement at approximately 76k per year. If he averaged 100k per year, before retirement, it was due to a significant amount of overtime. The state retirement formula does not account for any “cashed in accumulated sick and vacation pay” or overtime to “spike” your salary.

      It’s unfortunate, your brother-in-law “has never in his life stepped foot into a college classroom.” Maybe, he was to busy working, since the age of 21 (according to your calculations), to have an opportunity to expand his education. I am here tell you that your brother-in-law does not represent the majority of CCPOA members. Many, including myself, have higher educations and take pride in the service we provide the state.

      When individuals ridicule CCPOA, I ask them have you ever been in a California State Prison? If not, how can you critic what you don’t truly understand. You state that “there are many more dangerous occupations all of which pay a fraction of the total comp our public union workers make.” If so, can you please expand on which occupations your referring too. The truth is that most people would not work in a prison, for their own personal reasons. Fortunately, there are some that are willing to put their lives in harms way, so society can rest assure that convicted felons remain behind bars.

      I hope this paints a better picture of your brother-in-law’s career. I am not going to guess on why you would be so critical of his endeavors. I just hope you come to appreciate his state service and allow him to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

      (3) 43 Total Votes - 23 up - 20 down
      • SLORider says:

        WHOA THERE, Areyouforreal– Heard of medical retirement?? Heard of the Ventura Decision???

        The Ventura Decision certainly does allow for cashing in sick and vacation pay, and more…

        Here are JUST A FEW of the earning items that are PENSIONABLE under the Ventura Decision:

        SICK PRE-71 BUYBACK*

        (Source: L.A. County Employees Retirement Assoc.)

        (3) 25 Total Votes - 14 up - 11 down
        • Areyouforreal says:


          Where in your “PENSIONABLE” list does it state that employees can spike their salary towards retirement. Your own statement makes my point, “The Ventura Decision certainly does allow for cashing in sick and vacation pay, and more…”

          These perks are all buybacks. For example, public employees can either choose to cash out their vacation time or added towards state service. Why shouldn’t they have this option when they retire or go out on medical? They have earned this vacation time, along with the rest. If they chose not to use it, while they were employed, are they supposed to let their employers keep it without compensation?

          Overall, unions do what private businesses fail to do. They are there to protect their employees from their bosses, who are only looking out for their own bottom dollar.

          (4) 22 Total Votes - 13 up - 9 down
      • danika says:

        He can certainly enjoy the fruits of his labor but NOT at the expense of mine. I have paid enough to support his wage/benefits. I am not paying a penny more.

        (-6) 20 Total Votes - 7 up - 13 down
        • Areyouforreal says:

          Please enlighten me on how you “have paid enough to support his wages/benefits.” Unless your a state worker and are contributing to into PERS (Public Employees Retirement System), you are not putting a single cent out of your own expense. Just as state workers don’t contribute to Sociol Security, the private sector doesn’t add a cent towards PERS.

          PERS is entirely funded by state employees and that money is managed in the stock market for financial gain. Unfortunetly, the market has been down and that has brought out these so called “dooms day scenario” experts.

          Certain media and Rupublicans, both union bashers, want you to believe that the economy will never recover and tax payers will have to front the states retirement. obligation. This is just a ploy to take away the state employees pensions and overall Collective Bargaining Agreement rights that they have fought for over the years.

          Please read these articles if you would like to know the truth behind what’s really going on with public pensions:

          Really Bad Reporting in Wisconsin: Who ‘Contributes’ to Public Workers’ Pensions?
          David Cay Johnston | Feb. 24, 2011 12:16 PM EST


          Viewpoints: If public unions die, all workers will suffer
          By Bruce Maiman
          Special to The Bee


          Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions
          Published: February 28, 2011


          A Bad Deal for Taxpayers
          Updated February 28, 2011, 10:23 PM

          Please before you make an outlandish claim that your tired of paying into a public employees retirements, rest assure that your money is safe and consider the alternative.

          (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down
          • danika says:

            Because his job is paid by my taxdollars. His contributions to PERS comes from his paycheck which comes from my taxes. That’s how.

            (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
            • Areyouforreal says:

              I supposed you expect the sergeant and all public workers to work for free. If you feel so strongly about your taxes paying for state services, I suggest you stop paying taxes so your money does not go towards any future public employee’s wages. You will only have to worry about the IRS coming after you for tax evation.

              By the way, public employees also pay taxes. According to your comments, is it fair to say that they pay their own wages, so they can pay for their own retirement?

              (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
    • trekin says:

      Shocker, another anti-public service employee article from Calcoast. The cost of government has dramatically decreased due to furloughs, massive layoffs at all levels, pay freezes, permanent pay cuts, policies of not replacing retirees, and new laws reducing employee benefits. This ongoing trend is both good and bad. It gives us a chance to get rid of some spending waste, but in going too far, we will harm the public good and the standard of wages and benefits for the middle class.

      This story about the brother-in-law is exaggerated in order to foment discontent by making people think all public employees make exorbitant salaries in retirement. There is no way this person is making 131% of salary. But they do bring up a good point, and that is pension spiking, which is not possible with sick pay, but it has been documented in some cases, particularly where government employees have some control over what they are paid, and it certainly has to stop, as does double-dipping.

      Here are some interesting facts, giving greater scope and balance to the situation, and things that don’t seem to get reported on this “news” website: The average age of retirement for the largest sector of State employees is 60 –with 19.5 years of service and an average monthly salary of $1673.82, so that is $20,085 per year –pre-tax! These people are hardly living in the lap of luxury. It’s ludicrous to think so, and unethical to paint a picture that all public employees are making the same retirements. It’s like trying to reduce the janitor’s pay because upper-management is overcompensated.

      And remember, all these people paid into their own retirements every month of their service, so a significant portion of this money is their own + the interest that their sacrifices netted them.

      (9) 13 Total Votes - 11 up - 2 down
  6. ds_gray says:

    The pension system, for far too many years, has been run in the same fashion as the fund of an investment guy who is currently in prison – Bernie Madoff. Its called a PONZI SCHEME. The govt has relied on ever-increasing revenues to feed ever-increasing benefits packages to ever-increasing numbers of state workers. The minute the trend turns around, and the state needs to shrink, the wheels fall off, same as Madoff.

    Bankruptcy is an option and should be considered. Sadly, many more retirees will be hurt, through the default of state-issued bonds, which are bundled into just about every retired person’s portfolio – including my own.

    (14) 32 Total Votes - 23 up - 9 down
  7. bulwark says:

    I say, let ’em be harmed.

    What, were supposed to pay these extravagant salary & pension benefit packages so we can attract the brightest and best prison guards? They’re PRISON GUARDS people!

    The only true solution is for California to be allowed to declare bankruptcy…..which it is. Then pensions can reset at sustainable levels.

    There is not enough money. Period. Mr Brown of the correctional officers says that harming pensions will push up other parts of the compensation package. He does not get it!

    (14) 46 Total Votes - 30 up - 16 down

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