Many governments are looking to balance budgets or contain costs, and most at least glancing look at their pensions. However, in an opinion piece, Marc Haiungs, President of the Kern Law Enforcement Association, says that it is unfair to try to balance all of government’s budgets on the backs of pensioners and public servants.
As a long time law enforcement officer, Haiung particularly takes issue with a recent column by Dan Walters, who had said that unions are in denial on pension costs. However, Haiung points out that pension costs are lower now (in terms of percent of total expenditures) than in 1980. Additionally, many public employees already contribute to their pensions, some won’t have the safety of a Social Security net or health benefits in retirement.
Instead, Haiung says that the right way to approach pension reform, expenditure controls, and other means to save money is to continue working at the negotiating table, focusing on the issues that are more have impact on municipal finances.
This is in response to syndicated columnist Dan Walters’ Jan. 24 piece, “Civil service unions in denial on pension costs.” I have been in law enforcement since I was 20 years old. I will be starting my 25th year in law enforcement this year. All Californians are struggling through this recent recession. Why is it that the media and politicians immediately target public safety and public employees’ pensions to balance the budget?
There is this misconceived notion that all public safety employees retire with pensions of more than $100,000 a year. The facts are, statewide, less than 3 percent of public safety retirees make that much a year. They are the few that were fortunate enough to promote through the ranks, remained healthy enough to have a 30-plus-year career, and retired as captains or chiefs. The fact is 78 percent of CalPERS retirees make less than $36,000 a year.
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