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Mark Bucher

Transparent California Releases 2013 Payroll and Pension Data

This week the California Policy Center (CPC) released 2013 payroll and pension data (the most recent data available) on TransparentCalifornia.com, the largest ever online database of California state and local government employee pensions, salaries, and benefits. The data shows that public compensation in California is growing more out of control, threatening the solvency of the state and local governments.

This new 2013 data includes pension data from the big state pension systems and payroll data from state agencies, counties, the CalState system, and community colleges. It shows egregious examples of misplaced taxpayer funds. Most notably, one assistant fire chief with the Los Angeles Fire Department earned a pension payout of $998,456. On the payroll side, the Alameda County Administrator made $654,000 in total compensation in 2013, while her assistant made $338,000.

For anyone who wants to view – and download – information from the most comprehensive collection of pay, benefit, and pension data ever compiled for California’s state and local government workers, here are some key links:

All Data: http://transparentcalifornia.com

Payroll Data – by Agency: http://transparentcalifornia.com/agencies/salaries/

Pension Data – by Pension System: http://transparentcalifornia.com/agencies/pensions/

CalSTRS Pension Data – by Employer: http://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/calstrs/employers/

CalPERS Pension Data – by Employer: http://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/calpers/employers/

And here are some highlights of inflated 2013 payroll and pensions data compiled using data from Transparent California:

PAYROLL

  • Alameda County Administrator made $654,000 in total compensation.
  • San Bernardino and Los Angeles County CEOs made $500,000 in total compensation.
  • Sacramento and San Diego County CEOs made $370,000 and $394,000 respectively in total compensation.

PENSIONS – CalSTRS

  • 8,437 retirees took home six-figure pension payouts.
  • 730 collected at least $150,000.
  • 54 made more than $200,000.
  • One recipient collected $240,900, while another had a total pension payout of over $215,000.

PENSIONS – Los Angeles Fire and Policy Protection System

  • An Assistant Chief received a total pension payout of $998,456, which includes benefits and a lump sum DROP payment of $839,345.
  • Including DROP payouts, 85 retirees received total pensions exceeding a half-million dollars, while 12 of those retirees took home over $700,000 each.

PENSIONS – San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS)

  • A Police Captain received a total pension of $785,679 (this probably includes a DROP payout, but the data is not broken out).
  • 5 retirees in San Diego City Pension system received over $700,000 in 2013. 8 total over $600K and 13 total over $500K. 40 over $300K. (This probably include DROP payments, but thay are not broken out.

PENSIONS – Orange County

  • 13 retirees collected pensions valued at over $200,000 per year.
  • 148 retirees have a pension of 100% or more of their final salary.
  • 821 have a pension of 90% or more of their final salary.

These so-called “DROP” payments are lump sums paid when employees retire. This benefit is frequently offered to public safety retirees, although not all jurisdictions make it available. Where available, it is granted when a government employee who is, say, 50 years old and eligible to retire, instead opts to continue working. While continuing to work – and getting paid – because they had already become eligible to collect a pension, the amount they would have gotten as a pension is paid into a savings account on their behalf, bearing 5% per year interest. When they retire, they begin collecting an ongoing pension but also get paid 100% of the proceeds of these accumulated DROP savings. “DROP” stands for “deferred retirement option plan,” but in plain English it might be called “double dipping.” The taxpayer pays for all of this, of course.

Million dollar pensions are just the latest example of California’s lavish pension system paid for by overburdened California taxpayers. Meanwhile, essential services are squeezed, civic bankruptcies continue, and income inequality increases.

Due in large part to these exorbitant pensions, California state and local governments are facing an estimated $655 billion in unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities. This shortfall in contrast to the number of state employees and pensioners receiving half million dollar payouts or more from the taxpayer highlights the need for public sector compensation reform. This shortfall also puts the recent declarations of “budget surpluses” by many of our state legislators into proper perspective.

*   *   *

Mark Bucher is the president of the California Policy Center

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