Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Austerity Spending", Sacramento Style

Those of us hoping for Sacramento to start matching its solemn rhetoric on the budget crisis with any sort of serious action have gotten plenty of bad news in the past couple days. Let's size up some of the ugly details.

Instead of a snarky comment, we'll wish the Governor a quick recovery from his recent surgery.

First up: on Monday, the state Senate ratified six contract agreements reached by Jerry Brown and unions representing engineers, scientists, judges, law enforcement, and prison guards. We've been down on these contracts for some time, as most of their expected savings are offset by new goodies given to the unions. Earlier rumblings that Republicans wouldn't support the contracts were largely well-founded, as they received only token GOP support. The contracts now move toward likely approval in the Assembly.

Next up, we have news from the LA Times that Moorpark Senator Tony Strickland's SB115 died in the Public Employment and Retirement Committee yesterday. Strickland's bill would have stripped public pensions from officials convicted of misusing taxpayers' money. In other words, if Robert Rizzo is convicted of falsifying documents and stealing tax dollars, SB115 would've kept him from collecting the massive pension he gave himself. The bill was stalled by Democrats Negrete McLeod of Chino, Juan Vargas of San Diego, and Alex Padilla of Pacoima, who cited the concerns of firefighting, teaching, and supervisors' advocates that the bill would harm the innocent family members of convicted scumbag bureaucrats. So, if you're keeping score at home, Democrats in the state Senate think unearned pensions are important enough that they'll defend Robert Rizzo's interests to keep them.

Finally, the Orange County Register reports that CalPERS has decided to keep allowing firefighters to factor "extended duty" hours into their pensions. This sucks for the cause of pension reform because CalPERS doesn't allow state employees to count overtime hours against their pensions, and because "extended duty" accounts for roughly 40% of firefighters' pensions. We would humbly suggest that it might be easier for CalPERS to avoid things like gigantic unfunded liabilities if it calculated pensions using predictable numbers of work hours, rather than allowing variables like "extended duty" to throw everything off.


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