Highway robbery was supposed to be illegal in California. But after just eight months on the job, Stockton Police Chief Tom Morris grabbed a $204,000 pension. No wonder state pension funds now require hefty infusions of cash from taxpayers — and soon will go broke. Bloomberg writes that Morris was:
“the third of four chiefs who stayed in the position for less than three years and retired with an average of 92 percent of their final salaries.
“Stockton, which filed for bankruptcy protection on June 28, is among California cities from the Mexican border to the San Francisco Bay confronting rising pension costs as they contend with growing unemployment and declining property- and sales-tax revenue. The pensions are the consequence of decisions made when stock markets were soaring, technology money flooded the state, and retirement funds were running surpluses.
“’We didn’t have very many people looking out for the taxpayers when these deals were negotiated,’” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, 63, said in a telephone interview. San Jose, the state’s third-largest city, approved a ballot measure in June to contain annual retirement costs that soared to $245 million from $73 million in the past decade.
It’s all a total ripoff. Here’s what we should do: If taxpayers are on the hook, limit public-employee retiree pensions to $60,000 a year, about the median income in California. Any retiree should be able to survive on that. Some of these retired cops might have to sell their ranches in Montana. But they’ll still be doing OK.
Does the California Constitution supposedly guarantee such mammoth, ripoff pensions? Some authorities say it does, some say it doesn’t. In any case, it could be reinterpreted. Or changed. Or ignored.
The California Constitution begins:
“All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”
Certainly, taxing us to death and bankrupting our cities to pay exorbitant pensions to retirees violates the right to “enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”
John Seiler was an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 19 years and is a reporter and analyst for CalWatchDog.com.