By Steven Greenhut | Whenever I write about some of the absurd benefits and gamesmanship that flourish within California’s public sector, people write back in disbelief. They have no idea of the many special payments and protections afforded to the state’s government employees – the types of things that virtually no one in the private sector would expect to receive.
I’m not referring to the generous retirement plans, which allow “public safety” workers to retire at age 50 with 90 percent or more of their final three years’ pay and many miscellaneous employees to retire at age 57 with 82 percent of their pay. Or the Cadillac-style medical benefits.
Many people know about those things, especially given the state’s growing pension debt and the “crowding out” of public services caused by these unsustainably costly programs. But what about the bizarre stuff that somehow has become law?
For instance, newspapers used the term “chief’s disease,” which refers to the way high-ranking California police officials often retire with a disability – thus protecting half of their income from taxes. Disabilities have become another entitlement, whereby some normal ailments that afflict our aging bodies can become a drain on the public till.
Then there are the so-called “presumptions.” If, say, after an aged retired firefighter is diagnosed with cancer it’s presumed to be caused by the job, thus opening up a storehouse of publicly funded benefits. There are “donning and doffing” rules, whereby law-enforcement officials may be paid for their time putting on and taking off their uniforms. Did you know that the state’s billboard inspectors were added in 2002 to the category of public-safety officials, thus enabling them to retire with the most generous pension packages?
There are myriad – and perfectly legal – pension-spiking gimmicks that, say, provide special “management pay” for managers, or give librarians extra pay for helping library patrons, or government-employed gardeners salary boosts for working on sprinkler systems. These are the normal part of their job descriptions, but thanks to various little-known laws these employees get to inflate their final salary and boost their lifelong pensions.
To read the entire column at the Orange County Register, please click here.