Brown’s budget is a boon to state’s unions

cagle cartoon, jerry brown fog, teachers unions, Oct. 22, 2012Jan. 20, 2013

By Steven Greenhut

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown continues to pose as an iconoclast who is willing to make the tough choices necessary to keep California  afloat, but the budget he released recently is more evidence that he remains the cat’s paw for the state’s public-sector unions.

“I want to advance the progressive agenda,” Brown said at the press  conference unveiling his supposedly balanced budget, “but consistent  with the amount of money people made available … I respect and embrace  my role of saying ‘no.’”

But he certainly has said yes to union demands. The budget is the  culmination of Brown’s campaign to convince Californians to raise  taxes on themselves. They complied by approving Proposition 30 to help the  school kids, yet Brown has played games with that money — earmarking  some of it for union pay hikes as a payback for all that help during the Nov. 6 campaign, according to GOP leaders.

Debt

But the biggest problem is the budget’s unbelievable refusal to grapple with the tsunami of debt cascading toward Sacramento. For the past decade, California officials have been ramping up pay and benefit packages for public employees, creating a level of enrichment that is almost hard to believe.

The ranks of the $100,000 Pension Club are growing rapidly. California public employees receive far more in pay and retirement compensation than those in other states, according to a Bloomberg series. We have public employees walking away from the job at age 50 with multi-millionaires’ pensions and six-figure payouts. It’s obscene — especially considering the meager retirements that most private-sector workers will receive.

The unions want us all to ignore the problem so that no one even modestly reduces the benefits they are set to receive. Brown has complied, but has left the state’s taxpayers in a precarious position.

The problem isn’t hard to fix from an actuarial perspective. Many good progressives have floated reasonable pension reforms that simply pare back the benefits going forward and eliminate pension-spiking gimmicks, double-dipping schemes and other unfair game-playing. Brown need only live up to his own rhetoric of “fiscal restraint,” and he could have a stunning legacy.

But he refuses to get serious about the debt issue even though the current system is unsustainable. Sure, California can afford the annual payments on those pension promises, just as most nearly bankrupt people can afford the minimum monthly payment on their maxed-out credit card. But what about the “wall of debt”? Why can’t Brown see it?

“[Brown] presented a timeline for repaying nearly $28 billion the state owes to government programs that it raided for cash or deprived of funds over the years,” reported the Los Angeles Times. “But numerous reports by state agencies, think tanks and academics have shown the wall of debt to be many stories higher than $28 billion — hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few decades. Brown’s repayment plan does not significantly reduce the sizable debt to Wall Street or account for promises the state has made to its current and future retirees but is not setting enough money aside to cover.”

Reform talk

Brown has always talked a good game about reform. Last year, he proposed a solid pension-reform plan, but used no political capital to promote it. When Prop. 30 was in danger, Brown and Democrats in the Legislature cobbled together superficial pension reforms as a ploy to help the then-languishing Prop. 30 campaign, but that was more about politics than fiscal reform.

In the thick of the state’s budget problems, Brown “negotiated” an unconscionable give-away to the prison-guards union, once again enriching some of the best-paid workers in the nation at the expense of the high-minded ideals he claims to champion. At the time, I wrote that Brown was a “prisoner of the union.” Nothing much has changed since then.

By approving Prop. 30, the state’s voters have assured a delay in addressing the state’s real fiscal problems for yet another year. Crisis is the only thing that has driven reform here, and now that the state has extra money there won’t be any impetus for fundamental reform. We can at least hope that Brown makes good on his promise to put the kibosh on any big new spending programs to come from the newly empowered Democratic legislative supermajorities.

People adjust their behavior, shift their investments and even move if the tax authorities and regulators get too greedy. Expect more deficits if the state doesn’t begin to treat its job creators more fairly.

California is a wonderful place and it still can have a bright future, but only if is leaders face up to fiscal reality and stand up to the insatiable public-sector unions. Some people thought the supposedly iconoclastic Brown would be the one to do that in that “Nixon goes to China” way. They were wrong. Perhaps new, more courageous leaders will emerge.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. He is based in Sacramento. Write to him at: [email protected]

43 comments

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  1. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 20 January, 2013, 09:14

    Greenster!

    Please keep the spin up– but remember the truth little buddy!

    The average CalPERS pension is about $25,000 per year. Half of CalPERS retirees receive $18,000 per year or less in benefits. Unlike the private sector, 40% of CalPERS retirees do not receive Social Security, making their CalPERS pension their sole source of pension income, other than savings.

    Seventy-four percent of CalPERS retirees receive $36,000 per year or less. School pensioners in the CalPERS program receive on average $1,192.00 a month.

    About 2 percent of the nearly half million CalPERS retirees receive annual pensions of $100,000 or more. Many are retired non-unionized or specialized skilled employees or other high wage earners who worked 30 years or more. Many served in high-level management positions.

    Reply this comment
  2. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 20 January, 2013, 10:06

    Hahahahah,LMAO!!! You can tell little Steven Greenmut is desperately trying to keep the pension reform train moving even though the coal is just about out! Keep the BS coming greeny! But lets not ignore the facts, Less than 1% of all retirees are able to retire at 50!

    — unions want us all to ignore the problem so that no one even modestly reduces the benefits they are set to receive.
    ========================
    Benefits have been reduced, where have you been greeny!

    Reply this comment
  3. Marten Purdy
    Marten Purdy 20 January, 2013, 11:09

    Jerry Brown gives freedom to the people. To do away with societies leaders and inflated ego’s. Destroyer of the worlds icons and false beliefs. Originally known for destroying things that followed a belief or system (icons).Both feared and hunted by government.

    Reply this comment
  4. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 12:11

    Please keep the spin up– but remember the truth little buddy!

    The average CalPERS pension is about $25,000 per year
    =======
    Here is the most recent information, drawn directly from the annual reports of Cal STRS and CalPERS:

    From the CalSTRS Annual Report, page 135:

    CalSTRS participants who retired during the 12 months ending June 30th, 2010 (the most recent data), earned pensions as follows:
    25-30 years service, average pension $50,772 per year.
    30-35 years service, average pension $67,980 per year.
    35-40 years service, average pension $86,736 per year.

    From the CalPERS Annual Report, page 151:

    CalPERS participants who retired during the 12 months ending December 31st, 2009 (the most recent data), earned pensions as follows:

    25-30 years service, average pension $53,182 per year.
    30+ years service, average pension $66,828 per year.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/48290940/CA-CalPERS-2010-Comprehensive-Annual-Financial-Report

    http://www.calstrs.com/help/forms_publications/printed/CurrentCAFR/cafr_2010.pdf

    KABOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Teddy just got knocked loopy

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 12:12

    Benefits have been reduced, where have you been greeny!
    ==
    Only reduced for less than 1%, the new hires.

    Reply this comment
  6. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 12:13

    Less than 1% of all retirees are able to retire at 50!
    =
    Actually ANY trougher can retire at age 50, they just won’t get top benefits unless they are public safety.

    Reply this comment
  7. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 20 January, 2013, 13:34

    Calpers published records indicate that over the last seven years, safety workers who retired at age 50 with 30 years of service represented 1 percent of all those retired. The reason very few ever would receive this level pension is that they would have had to start working age 20 to earn 30 years. Most start their safety careers at age 27, 28, or 29.

    Twelve percent of all public safety members are subject to the 3 percent at age 55 formula. They would need 37.5 years of service at age 50 to get 90 percent, and would have had to start working at age 12.5 to earn 37.5 years. And 7 percent of all public agency safety members are subject to the 2 percent at age 50 formula. They would need to have 45 years of service at age 50 to get 90 percent, and would have had to start working at age 5 to earn 45 years.

    0 for 14 ™! VERY soon to be 15!

    Hurry!!!!! Post something quick!!!

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 14:33

    Please keep the spin up– but remember the truth little buddy!

    The average CalPERS pension is about $25,000 per year
    =======
    Here is the most recent information, drawn directly from the annual reports of Cal STRS and CalPERS:

    From the CalSTRS Annual Report, page 135:

    CalSTRS participants who retired during the 12 months ending June 30th, 2010 (the most recent data), earned pensions as follows:
    25-30 years service, average pension $50,772 per year.
    30-35 years service, average pension $67,980 per year.
    35-40 years service, average pension $86,736 per year.

    From the CalPERS Annual Report, page 151:

    CalPERS participants who retired during the 12 months ending December 31st, 2009 (the most recent data), earned pensions as follows:

    25-30 years service, average pension $53,182 per year.
    30+ years service, average pension $66,828 per year.

    KABOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Teddy just got knocked loopy

    Reply this comment
  9. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 14:35

    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies ™ says:

    January 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Calpers published records indicate that over the last seven years, safety workers who retired at age 50 with 30 years of service represented 1 percent of all those retired
    ==
    That is NOT what you claimed earlier Baby Einstein. Yo said, and I quote;
    Less than 1% of all retirees are able to retire at 50!

    They’re ALL able to reitre at age 50-even sooner, they just don’t max out on the pensions.

    Oh brother, like taking candy from a Teddy….errrr…..baby!

    Reply this comment
  10. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 14:37

    The reason very few ever would receive this level pension is that they would have had to start working age 20 to earn 30 years. Most start their safety careers at age 27, 28, or 29.
    ================
    LOL..now teddy knows when “most” GED cops start working!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Teddy what else can you MAKE UP TODAY??? I need more chuckles!

    Reply this comment
  11. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 20 January, 2013, 15:43

    LOL

    My info came directly from Calpers site— and—lol—– you can’t understand it, let alone deal with it!

    LOL

    Oh MY!!!!! Poor Poodle—
    should we count this as your 15th??????

    Hurry– POST NOW!!!!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  12. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 20 January, 2013, 15:46

    Oh—by the way little buddy!

    Look at post#2 above– it was intheoc who said 1% ..not me!
    Are your parents home?

    OOOOOOOOOOuch—– post quick!!!

    Reply this comment
  13. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 15:53

    Look at post#2 above– it was intheoc who said 1% ..not me!
    Realllllyyyyyyyyyyyy;

    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies ™ says:
    January 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm
    Calpers published records indicate that over the last seven years, safety workers who retired at age 50 with 30 years of service
    represented 1 percent of all those retired.

    Oh MY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Teddy, take off your Batman jammies, put down the X-Box and get out of the basement lil buddy! 😉

    Reply this comment
  14. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 15:54

    Teddy, should we count THIS as YOUR 15th??????????????

    KABOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  15. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 20 January, 2013, 16:14

    LOL– I know you’re upset, but….

    Is there ever a chance you’ll compose your own posts and stop repeating mine?

    LOL doubt it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    HURRY!!!!! Post right now!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  16. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 20 January, 2013, 16:24

    Rex the Wonder Dog! says:
    January 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm
    Look at post#2 above– it was intheoc who said 1% ..not me!
    Realllllyyyyyyyyyyyy;

    Yes—-really——-and it’s very clear to ALL of us that by what you pasted here that you are unable to understand simple math!

    0 for 14 ™!

    Reply this comment
  17. Hondo
    Hondo 20 January, 2013, 16:52

    The wall of debt is 500 billion. This according to the liberals at Stanford. Nothing Calpers nor the liberal commentators here have addressed a fraction of this debt. 1% growth and unemployment at over, and near 10%, for the future as far as we can see, will not come close to paying down this debt. And the huge taxes increases won’t provide the economy to bring in revenues. In a few years more, unless the economy grows at 5%, we will see huge deficits dwarfing anything we have seen.
    Hondo….

    Reply this comment
  18. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 20 January, 2013, 18:13

    Hondo……your post is exactly what doom and gloomers said after ww2—-relax little buddy……and stay engaged. I’ll bet on the US economy and people any day of the week.

    Reply this comment
  19. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog 20 January, 2013, 19:37

    We all know what’s going to happen: The public-employee pensions are going bankrupt. Hundreds of California cities are going bankrupt. The California state government is going bankrupt. The U.S. government is going bankrupt.

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  20. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 20 January, 2013, 20:10

    Oh John that’s an easy and limited conclusion to reach. I think change will modify and change our lives as it always has. I am sure the doomers out here will agree with you 100%— let’s see! It’ll be fun!

    Reply this comment
  21. PT
    PT 20 January, 2013, 20:23

    I keep seeing this phrase, ‘Years of service’ and wonder whether anyone in the State received any of this ‘service’.
    I haven’t!!

    Reply this comment
  22. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 22:18

    We all know what’s going to happen: The public-employee pensions are going bankrupt. Hundreds of California cities are going bankrupt. The California state government is going bankrupt. The U.S. government is going bankrupt.

    – John Seiler
    ==
    Unless you’re Teddy Steals and live in Bizzaro world. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  23. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2013, 22:19

    I keep seeing this phrase, ‘Years of service’ and wonder whether anyone in the State received any of this ‘service’.
    I haven’t!!
    ==
    We’re getting “serviced” alright, but not the way we would like.

    Reply this comment
  24. eyeamok
    eyeamok 21 January, 2013, 08:39

    We all know what’s going to happen: The public-employee pensions are going bankrupt. Hundreds of California cities are going bankrupt. The California state government is going bankrupt. The U.S. government is going bankrupt.

    – John Seiler

    Why can’t we just turn our children into Debt Slaves and force them to PAY for All the services we are consuming today, bury them in Perpetual Debt that is ever increasing and can never be paid. They should be Thrilled to have only Half their Daily Earnings go to Pay for our Luxuries, That will teach them .

    Reply this comment
  25. eyeamok
    eyeamok 21 January, 2013, 08:40

    Oh I forgot, WE ALREADY ARE

    Reply this comment
  26. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 21 January, 2013, 09:02

    Why can’t we just turn our children into Debt Slaves and force them to PAY for All the services we are consuming today..
    ====

    We are not getting services- just HUGE bills for limited service.

    Reply this comment
  27. BobA
    BobA 21 January, 2013, 17:27

    eyeamok:

    Our children are already debt slaves. They’re just too young to be put to work and pay “their fair share” of the tax burden.

    The government should repeal the 13th amendment because for all intent and purposes, slavery still exists to this day under the nom de guerre “taxes”. The old titles and bill of sales have been replaced with Form 1040, 540, 1099, W-2’s W-4’s etc., etc.

    The government euphemistically calls us “tax payers” but in truth, we’re tax slaves or debt slaves but why argue over the semantics? A slave is a slave by any name of definition.

    Reply this comment
  28. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 21 January, 2013, 19:34

    The government should repeal the 13th amendment because for all intent and purposes, slavery still exists to this day under the nom de guerre “taxes”.
    ==
    In a way they have. They have taken away the statute of limitations on student loans, they have taken away the right to have COURT rule you are in default before garnishing wages, and they have taken away the right to get the debt refinanced. Student loans are the modern day debtors prison, slave trade.

    Reply this comment
  29. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 21 January, 2013, 20:01

    LOL Bwahahahahaha—– another doomsday ends on low info CWD!!!

    Reply this comment
  30. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 21 January, 2013, 21:44

    Teddy, did you kill off your gal pal seesaw????

    Reply this comment
  31. Marten Purdy
    Marten Purdy 22 January, 2013, 07:57

    Little Brown ‘s classmates knew he was a boon when he wet his pants in the bathroom.

    Reply this comment
  32. BobA
    BobA 22 January, 2013, 08:09

    Rex:

    And don’t forget social slavery. We euphemistically call it welfare but it is slavery never the less. Surprisingly, a significant number of people see nothing wrong with that form of slavery.

    Only us tax slaves see the wrong in social slavery because we’re the ones with the government gun held to our heads and forced to pay for it.

    Reply this comment
  33. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 22 January, 2013, 19:50

    “tax slave” LOL Boba– we all have to pay taxes—— do you cry out loud when you whine?

    social compact….Google it little buddy!

    Reply this comment
  34. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 22 January, 2013, 22:37

    Trough Feeding bottom dweller……….Google it little Teddy!

    Reply this comment
  35. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 23 January, 2013, 06:44

    I am the ONLY thought that ZERO the Poodle ever has……..mmmmm

    0 for 14 ™!

    waking the poodle cries
    his big predictions
    are still zero for fourteen!

    Reply this comment
  36. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 23 January, 2013, 21:12

    Teddy= Trough Feeding Bottom Dweller

    Reply this comment
  37. Marten Purdy
    Marten Purdy 24 January, 2013, 05:18

    The public-employee pensions:
    Ask people to word-associate with ‘Civil Servant’, and you might get things like ‘grey suit’, ‘bowler hat’, ‘faceless bureaucrat’ and ‘lazy incompetent boring waste of taxpayers’ money’. And that’s just from female ex-Prime Ministers.

    Reply this comment
  38. The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm)
    The Modified Ted Steele Methodologies (tm) 24 January, 2013, 06:54

    Poor Poodle—- unarmed.

    Reply this comment
  39. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 24 January, 2013, 23:24

    If you call an Abrams tank “unarmed” 🙂

    Reply this comment
  40. Marten Purdy
    Marten Purdy 25 January, 2013, 06:24

    Jerry Brown the inconoclast:
    We need an inconoclast to free us from the restraints and expectation of society.

    Reply this comment
  41. Crimonious
    Crimonious 25 January, 2013, 11:20

    FDR was prophetic about public unions sucking the life out of the tax payer. Public union membership in California is 1.5 million dwarfing the private sector union membership (who are not paid by tax payers) by about 500,000. There is no arms length collective bargaining practiced for public unions. They give huge campaign contributions to our politicians who turn around and stick us with the bill for overly generous benefit packages. It’s unfair to the tax payer and unfair to our kids.

    http://www2.hernandotoday.com/news/hernando-news/2010/oct/17/ha-fdrs-warning-public-employee-unions-a-no-no-ar-291004/

    Reply this comment
  42. Douglas
    Douglas 26 January, 2013, 00:19

    Why do people edit out the FIRST part of FDRs “warning” about public sector unions?

    “My dear Mr. Steward:
    As I am unable to accept your kind invitation to be present on the occasion of the Twentieth Jubilee Convention of the National Federation of Federal Employees, I am taking this method of sending greetings and a message.

    Reading your letter of July 14, 1937, I was especially interested in the timeliness of your remark that the manner in which the activities of your organization have been carried on during the past two decades “has been in complete consonance with the best traditions of public employee relationships.” Organizations of Government employees have a logical place in Government affairs.

    The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.”

    Reply this comment
  43. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 26 January, 2013, 14:09

    Douglas, it is OBVIOUS that public employees, per your post,should NOT get paid 2-20 times more than the private sector for the same or similar work.

    Reply this comment

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