Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pension Spiking? In California??

Jay-sus, are we only able to acknowledge our problems when there is a "study" (as in "studies say...") available? According to the latest "study," there's a big problem with California public employees arranging their work schedules so that their last couple year's income is unnaturally high, resulting in a spike in their pensions. The deuce, you say! Does Jerry Brown know?

Public employees in several California counties are fattening up their pensions by engaging in "salary spiking" — adding vacation time, educational incentives, car allowances and bonuses to their final retirement salaries, according to an investigation. 
Partial data from Ventura and Kern counties shows that the practice is draining public pension systems already underfunded by millions of dollars, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. 
CalPers, the state's largest public employee retirement system, banned spiking in 1993 to help control costs. But 20 of California's 58 counties — including Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Kern and San Diego — do not participate in CalPERS and their employees may legally continue to boost their pensions to levels beyond what they earned while working. 
In Ventura County, where the pension system is underfunded by $761 million, 84 percent of the retirees receiving more than $100,000 a year are earning more than they did on the job, according to the Times. In Kern County, 77 percent of retirees with pensions greater than $100,000 a year are getting more now than they did before. 
The scope of the practice is unclear because counties have resisted making complete pension data public, claiming the information is too difficult and costly to compile.

The biggest joke is that the beneficiaries are often management, not the workers. The notorious case of Bell, CA was not the exception, but the rule: 

The newspaper cited the case of Marty Robinson, who made $228,000 a year as Ventura County Chief Executive. After cashing out nearly $34,000 in unused vacation pay, an $11,000 bonus for having earned a graduate degree and more than $24,000 in extra pension benefits, in retirement Robinson now earns $272,000 a year — for life. 
In Ventura County, there are 60 categories of payments that retiring employees can convert to cash during retirement. When he retired after 30 years, former Sheriff Bob Brooks tacked on a $30,500 "longevity" bonus, which increased his pension to $272,000 a year, almost 20 percent higher than his base salary, according to the Times.

All of this is perfectly legal, of course, but that's the problem. The pension rules were drafted to lead to these sorts of abusive results. The politicians who drafted the legislation and negotiated the contracts are long gone, but their destructive ends are only reaching fruition now. Don't get too smug, though. Cops and fire fighters, not to mention prison guards, feature prominently in pension spiking lore. A lot of those "tough on crime" initiatives that right-wingers supported came with these sort of pension scams baked in. 

Of course, Republicans, conservatives, and other worthies familiar with math and human nature have been saying this for decades, but I guess that doesn't count because we lack the proper "studies."

No comments:

Post a Comment