Efforts to reform California’s public employee pension system got a boost Wednesday from a Sacramento Bee investigation that unearthed some staggering numbers. “Almost 9,000 retirees in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System receive at least $100,000 in annual benefits,” the newspaper reported. The figure is being seized upon by critics of state worker compensation, who point out that the median taxpayer in the Golden State earns just $56,000 per year.
In fairness to California’s public employees, the average pension drawn by last year’s retirees was a more reasonable $38,000. “The outliers are driving the discussion,” says union spokesman Steve Maviglio. “It’s frustrating.” In order to ease his mind, let’s focus our criticism on the real culprits: the legislators who made retiring police officers, firefighters and correctional officers eligible to earn 90 percent of their peak salary for life after they retire. These “public safety employees” account for most of the six-figure pensioners, often because they work a lot of overtime and cash out unused vacation days in the last year of their contracts, artificially boosting their salaries and thus the sum they’ll receive every year until death.