Read more from Jon Fleischman and other writers at Red County.

As we go into the 2010 election cycle, there is no doubt that spiraling, unsustainable public employee pension costs will and should be an important factor.

It matters what candidates for office are saying about this issue.

Readers should closely read this editorial from today’s Orange County Register.  Candidates for office should read it as well.

Do you agree with the Register’s editorial board that these lavish pensions are a problem?

If you are a candidate, what are you willing to do about it if you are elected to the office you seek?

Do you think that it is about time for all public employees (phased in for public current employees) to be given retirement benefits through defined contribution (401k type) programs?  (Yes, including police and fire employees who may get a more lucrative employer-contribution to their plan, but that is up to each employer-agency.)

If you are either an incumbent seeking re-election, or are running for a higher office from an existing elective post where you have and will have a say in how public employees are compensated for their retirement for your jurisdiction, you should do two things.  The first would be to look at your own record — have you participated approving public employee pensions that are out of par with the private sector?

If so, you can use your position in government office as an advantage.  Get on the record TODAY calling for a reform of the system.  Call TODAY for a re-negotiation of your employee contracts.  Make it clear (and public) that your vote will never (possibly never again) be available for any employee benefit package that includes extending current or providing new defined benefit systems.

Any candidates in a public office with a position to have a say over public employee benefits that does not clearly articulate their position on this issue, and to the extent possible DOES something to stop the unfair and affordable benefits of public-sector employees (versus private sector ones) is on notice.  Act now (you can issue a press release asap, followed by action) or else you are a part of the problem.

Being in office when you run for office can be of immense help.  You get to PROVE your commitment, instead of just talking about it.  Time to step up now.

If you aren’t willing to confront this issue, you should just retire or stop running for that higher office.

This crisis surrounding this issue is that bad.

In closing, I am not trying to say that public employees should not be fairly compensated.  I believe that employees should be fairly compensated for the work that they do.  But we must shift the responsibility from the taxpayers to the employees for managing their own retirement assets.  They can choose to be more risky or more conservative with their 401k type retirement funds, and they can retire whenever they feel they have enough accumulated funds to sustain their chosen post-career standard of living.  But the systems in place now are totally unfair to the taxpayer.

Read more from Jon Fleischman and other writers at Red County.