New category of CA employees tries to sandbag pension fixes

New category of CA employees tries to sandbag pension fixes

When elected officials participate even very indirectly in a process that improves their compensation, the public goes wild. It’s powerful attack-ad fodder for candidates seeking to unseat such politicians.

But when powerful bureaucrats engage in such in a maneuver — even in much more direct fashion — there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much media coverage, and thus quite a bit less awareness (and thus grousing) from taxpayers.

The single worst example of this in recent California history was so extreme, there was a public backlash. That came in 2009, when the bureaucrats at the giant Metropolitan Water District of Southern California tried to give themselves an amazing gift. Here was my shorthand description:

[The MWD has been] preparing to retroactively increase the pensions of its entire staff by 25 percent at a time when it was in the middle of a two-year, 31 percent increase in the rates it charges water districts serving 19 million people from Ventura to Riverside to San Diego. The MWD’s pension system was already $400 million underfunded. Now MWD bosses, who stood to reap huge gains personally, were moving to increase the unfunded liability by $70 million.

Several newspapers, led by The Orange County Register, got the word out. (But not The Los Angeles Times.) Then John & Ken got in the mix, and the MWD caved.

Fighting for high pensions — without a rationale

public-sector-pensionBut that’s the exception. The far more common story is the city manager or police chief who in public depicted themselves as tight-fisted defenders of taxpayers but who behind the scene defended or introduced pension sweeteners and stalled or blocked pension reforms. Why? Because they stood to benefit from generous pension policies even more than the rank-and-file.

For years, the short list of those with among the highest pensions of any retired public employee in San Diego County always featured city managers who defended Cadillac pensions as necessary to keep staff even though their cities had negligible turnover and there was no evidence that any employee category (except for police officers) were in demand.

But now we  have a new group of public employees using an inappropriate new set of tools to protect their compensation. This is from Reuters:

A group of judges is suing California’s public pension system CalPERS and the state of California over claims their pension contributions have been almost doubled unlawfully.

Under state pay grades, the six California Superior Court judges each earn more than $181,000 a year. The lawsuit filed on Dec. 23 says their pension contributions should be lowered by about $13,000 a year.

The six, who were elected in 2012, claim a pension reform law signed by Governor Jerry Brown which took effect Jan. 1, 2013 has raised their pension contributions to 15 percent from 8 percent of their salary. They say the 8 percent contribution was set in stone and should not have been raised by the new law retrospectively.

Judges take stand (!) in key pension debate

The question of whether pension contributions from public employees can only be decreased, with the government bearing the extra burden — and never increased, with the employee bearing the extra burden — is one of the most crucial legal battles local and state governments must fight in order to bring down pension costs that are on track to eat up one-quarter of the budget in many agencies. It’s also something that drives taxpayers nuts when the only-goes-down argument is presented.

But now we have six state judges saying, “No, that’s not open to debate at all. Give us our money and stop your whining.”

14 comments

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  1. Ronald Stein
    Ronald Stein 5 January, 2015, 06:51

    The inmates are running the Asylum. Public sector contracts negotiated by public sector employees that hammer out a contract that forces under duress a third party, taxpayers, to cough up the necessary dough, doesn’t seem too pass the smell test. In fact, it more closely resembles racketeering. Any challenges to that “racket” would be heard before judges who have pension and benefit package they want to protect. Again, seems like a racketeering cover-up right before our public eyes. Fiscal irresponsibility protects the jobs of bureaucrats who use their power in ways that harm those who work for a living.

    Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 5 January, 2015, 08:17

      Ronald, you are absolutely correct, but the RAGWUS could care less what the truth is my friend. 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • T Patriot Steele
        T Patriot Steele 6 January, 2015, 13:11

        What’s RAGAS???

        Reply this comment
        • Donkey
          Donkey 6 January, 2015, 19:43

          TCS, you know what it is my RAGWUS feeding troll, and the by-product is the PSHAND, pronounced (pis-hand), the public safety hip and knee disorder.

          I am going to enjoy watching you RAGWUS feeders moan, whine, and groan when the matrix collapses on your tiny little heads. 🙂

          Reply this comment
          • T Patriot Steele
            T Patriot Steele 7 January, 2015, 08:53

            yeah yeah yeah Duncey— and how long have you been predicting the end of the world Dunce Cap?

            Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • bob
      bob 5 January, 2015, 13:08

      “The inmates are running the Asylum.”

      Exactly. And you had a public union lawyer (Darrel Stinkbug) and a union organizer (Johnny Perez) running the legislature. What more can you say? The point is self-evident.

      Unfortunately the public hasn’t a clue or doesn’t care.

      Reply this comment
  2. T Ted Patriot
    T Ted Patriot 5 January, 2015, 10:41

    it is always these mega managers that have the huge pensions– otr at least for the most part– the judges though may have a Constitutional point re Article 3 and the separation of powers— it’s a gray area because the legislative branch controls the purse— it will all wash out in the courts-0– and without a doubt the doomers will gyrate and cackle as they are wont to do…

    mmmmmmmmmm

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 5 January, 2015, 22:35

      “…judges though may have a Constitutional point re Article 3 and the separation of powers— it’s a gray area because the legislative branch controls the purse…”

      Hahahhha…omg, Perry Mason Jr copying and pasting again…just tell everyone that Marbury v. Madison was the very first case the SCOTUS ever decided, that’s all you need to do Perry 😉

      Reply this comment
      • T Patriot Steele
        T Patriot Steele 6 January, 2015, 13:09

        I LOVE that all you EVER have on me is a Marbury fantasy drivel throw away chop!

        In my boxing dqys, we would refer irreverently to clowns like you as “an opponent”

        Meaning— you’re nothing!

        super easy ™ !

        Reply this comment
  3. bob
    bob 5 January, 2015, 13:01

    I think eventually the AB 32 cap-n-tax money works its way in to pensions. And anyway, money is fungible so it will free up other money to go into pensions.

    And speaking of gas prices they are paying just under $2 a gallon in Washington and in Illinois I heard the price got down to $1.88.

    Compare that to out here where its 50 to 75 cents more for the cheapest gas. And AB 32 hasn’t even fully kicked in yet.

    Reply this comment
  4. Tough Love
    Tough Love 11 January, 2015, 08:44

    CA Taxpayers must find a way to renege on the 50%-75% share of all of these Public Sector pensions (and BENEFITS) that would not have been granted in the absence of the collusion between the Public Sector Unions and our Elected officials.

    STOP accepting being financially “mugged”.

    Reply this comment
  5. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 11 January, 2015, 20:36

    PEPRA of 2013 has already made big changes in CA pension law. So you better believe all of our efforts are going to go to supporting the status quo with no further cuts for current, future, and retired workers.

    Reply this comment
  6. Tough Love
    Tough Love 12 January, 2015, 14:23

    SeeSaw, The PEPRA changes have so little impact on EXISTING workers, that it’s financial benefits will be negligible FOR MANY YEARS. Many Many CA Cities will file for bankruptcy BEFORE PEPRA’s financial savings materialize.

    Too little, too late.

    Reply this comment

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