August 17, 2007

Let the voters do what politician are too afraid to do

Once again the initiative system has to step in as pandering politicians wont do the heavy lifting. Why do we even bother with Sacramento? Lets just have initiatives all year long. Clearly they have lost the ability to govern and only do what the public employee unions want or threaten. Man are they going to get a wake up call when all these dumb ass taxpayers realize what lucrative pensions they are funding for these public employees (who retire at 50) while eeking out an existence on social security at 65 (their private job pension having been blown out years ago by mergers). WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Let people decide on public pensions
BY MARYLEE SHRIDER, contributing columnist | Friday, Aug 17 2007 7:05 PM
Last Updated: Friday, Aug 17 2007 9:51 PM

Public employee unions and the elected officials who cozy up to them have, for years, denied the growing crisis that is California's ponderous pension system.

It's a system that may yet break taxpayers' backs, but few in Sacramento are willing to stand up to union leaders who insist that plush pensions are their due.

So private citizens will have to do it for them.

One of those citizens was in Bakersfield last week with the good news that voting taxpayers may soon have the chance to take public pay matters into their own hands.

Keith Richman, a former 38th Districtassemblyman, R-Grenada Hills, who termed out last year, then helped form the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, said the foundation's sole purpose is to tackle the skyrocketing costs of public employee retirements.

During a speech before an appreciative lunchtime crowd at the Great Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, Richman said the foundation's pension reform measure, which he hopes to see on the ballot in 2008, promises to check the spiraling costs of retiree benefits.

"If we don't there may be some government entities that go bankrupt and those that don't are going to die from a thousand cuts in services," Richman said. "Because of the strength of the public employee unions as a special interest group in California, I don't have any confidence at all Sacramento will address this issue."

The controversy started to swell in the late 1990s, when pension funds were making big investment gains in a booming economy. When that bubble burst early this decade, critics began to sound the alarm that lawmakers would soon be scraping to find the billions necessary to cover government workers' pension benefits.

They're remarkably generous benefits that I, as the wife of a retired city police officer, am well and gratefully acquainted with. So, unlike union leaders who continue to clamor for more and better benefits while dismissing the state's pension problem as wildly overblown, I can affirm that state, county and city employees -- particularly police officers, firefighters and prison guards -- enjoy some of the most lucrative wage and retirement benefits in the country.

It's time, said Richman, to "stop digging the hole deeper" and create a fair retirement benefit for new employees who complete a full career's work. That plan, as spelled out in the initiative, includes raising the retirement age for police officers and firefighters to 55; to age 60 for other public safety employees and to Social Security retirement age, 65 to 67-- for all others.

That step alone will save billions, Richman said.

"The 10 more years they'll be paying in gives the capital 10 more years to accumulate," he said. "The estimates for the changes we propose in the initiative are that the savings would be about $500 billion over the next 30 years -- more than enough to pay for the unfunded liability we've already accrued."

City Councilman Zack Scrivner, who has been accused by some in the media and undoubtedly at local union meetings of "demonizing" the public pension problem, said the issue is no longer what public employees deserve, but what the taxpayer can afford.

"What Richman is doing is looking at political reality," Scrivner said. "I am perfectly willing to accept the challenge to make any necessary changes locally, but the fix ultimately needs to happen on a statewide level. Because elected officials are not willing to take that stand, this unfortunately is a problem that will have to be solved by a vote of the people."

Leave it to the people -- a good idea that's long overdue.

To read the text of the CFFR's Public Employees Benefits Reform Act visit

Marylee Shrider's column appears on Saturdays. Reach her at 395-7474 or

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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