$594,976 Vac Pay for Gov. Worker

John Seiler:

Incredible. Even after all that has been revealed about the immense government-worker pay, perks and pensions that have bankrupted California state and local governments, more shocking revelations keep coming up. This is from today’s L.A. Times:

Reporting from Sacramento—

Managers in California’s government routinely ignore official limits on the number of vacation days their employees can save, compelling the state to cut huge checks — many worth six figures — for unused time off when workers retire.

Prison doctor Fong Lai received $594,976 when he retired in 2010. Like most state employees, Lai was supposed to bank no more than 80 days of vacation, but his payment represented more than 2 1/2 years of unused time off.

Jay Wickizer, an administrator for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, saved about the same number of days, resulting in a $294,440 check upon his retirement last year. Former parole agent Thomas Berns accrued nearly three years’ worth of time off, allowing him a $268,990 cash-out, state records show.

Such payouts are almost unheard of in the private sector. Most companies allow employees to accrue a few weeks of vacation, but after that it’s “use it or lose it,” said Steven Frates, research director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute on public policy. “The theory behind vacations, of course, is rest and recuperation and recharge.”

But there’s never any rest for those who abuse the system and the taxpayers who pay for it.

On the Internet Front Page today for the Times, just below the link to the above scandal story, is a link to a Michael Hiltzik story entitled, “Hiltzik: Public pension reform, not public-worker bashing.”

He writes:

we’ll never achieve an equitable and effective fix until we dispel the miasma of non-facts enveloping this highly fraught topic.

For example, are public employees better paid than their private-sector fellows? Some are and some aren’t. A study done for the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, which is pushing pension reforms, found that public workers at the low end of the income scale were better paid than private-sector workers in similar jobs. But it was the opposite for those in management and specialized occupations, such as computer science.

Well, obviously Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and that Facebook kid make more money than any computer geek in government. And high-level managers in any 500 Fortune company are going to make seven-figure salaries. Such numbers skew the averages in the comparison.

Yet government workers still, on average, make more.  Federal government workers make twice what their private-sector counterparts make, on average, reported USA Today last August.

And in California, according to a study released last October by U.C. Berkeley, state and local workers make up to 30 percent more than equivalent private-sector workers.

Especially in the past 20 years, the government system simply has gotten way out of hand. The government-worker unions are the most powerful force in any state that allows them collective bargaining. They run things. And they have run the costs of employing them as high as they could until taxpayers collapsed from the burden.

May 15, 2011


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  1. David
    David 16 May, 2011, 00:04

    I’m not surprised or disappointed in the slightest that a doctor who stays on the job so consistently that he amasses 2 1/2 years of unused vacation would receive the value of that time when he retires. That is money paid for value received. He earned it. If he had used the vacation instead, there would have been less medical care given (or it would have to have been done by someone else, who would be paid instead). The purpose of limiting accrual is not to prevent people from receiving the pay that is due to them, but simply to encourage people to take vacations, because work quality may decline if people never take a break.

    Also, your ad nauseam repetition of the false claim that public employee salaries are the cause of the state deficit is simply amazing. The deficit was caused by the global economic depression.

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  2. Casey
    Casey 16 May, 2011, 08:07

    This is truly a bullsh*t story that uses facts to make propaganda against government employees. It suggests that the doctor is getting something for nothing, when in fact he is not. It’s simply vacation time that he did not take. And of course, being a doctor, the sum of money is far greater than what might be accrued by the average government employee. Still, many will come away from reading this hit piece with the idea that half-million dollar payouts are routine (they already incorrectly believe that pensions of 90 percent of salary are standard)

    The fact that the doctor, or any employee anyhwere for that matter, didn’t use vacation time and took the money instead is not a scandal. Governments and private companies are entitled to implement policies requiring that vacation time be taken, if that’s what they want to do. But it they do not and fail to account for that money in the ledger, the scandal is theirs, not the employees. By the way — did the doctor get any interest on all that cash that he did not collect, or did the state get to keep it?

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  3. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 16 May, 2011, 10:56

    Casey, the problem is that these people are ignoring rules that cap the amount of vacation time they can bank. Aside from the fact that they are granted ridiculous amount of vacation time in the first place, those vacation hours should be used or lost like they are in the private sector. Those hours are there so people can take a little bit of time off & relax so they dont get burnt out, not to be an additional supplemental retirement fund. There are plenty of employees to cover their position if they take a few weeks off, there are no public employees that are that vital to the operation of our state.

    That “Interest” that you are claiming he should be reimbursed for is more than covered by the fact that a substantial amount of those hours that they are getting paid for were granted years, if not decades ago. Those hours are being paid out at their highest rate of pay despite the fact that they were earned (& should have been used) when the worker was making a fraction of their current salary. You dont need to worry about our public employees getting shafted, they hire plenty of goons & politicians to ensure that they always get the better deal.

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