State turns bureaucrats into millionaires
By Steven Greenhut
California’s political leaders continue to defend a public-employee-compensation system that is so far beyond sanity it’s hard to know where to begin. Here is a Bloomberg story about a cop — a California Highway Patrol division chief — who is “earning” nearly half a million bucks in a year, an absurd enrichment scheme that explains much about why California is heading toward the poorhouse.
“California Highway Patrol division chief Jeff Talbott retired last year as the best-paid officer in the 12 most-populous U.S. states, collecting $483,581 in salary, pension and other compensation.
“Talbott, 53, received $280,259 for accrued leave and vacation time and took a new job running the public-safety department at a private university in Southern California. He also began collecting an annual pension of $174,888 from the state.
“Union-negotiated benefits, coupled with overtime that can exceed regular pay and lax enforcement of limits on accumulating unused vacation, allow some troopers to double their annual earnings and retire as young as age 50. The payments they get are unmatched by those elsewhere, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on 1.4 million employees of the 12 states. Some, like Talbott, go on to second careers.”
This legal thievery has so many crazy elements. You have a bureaucrat retired at the level of royalty at age 53. Yet Californians, in their wisdom, believed Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats who argued that there’s absolutely positively nothing that can be trimmed from our state budget and the only solution is higher taxes.
The taxes are bad enough, but the idea that state leaders really believe that the budget is tight is even worse. The state’s public-safety unions use the “hero” card whenever anyone tries to trim their outsized pay and benefits, but these union officials are doing something that is the opposite of heroic — they are placing their own selfish demands above everything else. They will do anything to protect an enrichment scheme that turns every public-safety official into a multi-millionaire. If you take a public safety job and stay on it for 30 years, then you will retire with a millionaire’s pension. Think about how much money you would need to have saved to sustain a six-figure pension until you die.
Defenders of this system will of course refer to the Jeff Talbot situation as the example of an abuse, but this is not an aberration, even if Talbot played the system to extremes.
Now that voters approved Prop. 30 and gave Democrats a supermajority in the Legislature, forget about reforms. The only thing that will change this is insolvency. Now that’s something to look forward to.
May 18, 2013