by Jon Coupal | Sacramento

For those who work in the private sector, the dream of enjoying a  comfortable retirement has become just that — a dream.

The impact of the recession continues to be brutal, especially on older  workers.

“More than seven-in-ten (72 percent) workers over the age of 60 who said  they are putting off their retirement are doing so because they can’t  afford to retire,” according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.  In  California, with unemployment and under employment totaling over 21  percent – only Michigan with its decaying auto industry is worse off –  older people being forced to work longer may regard themselves as lucky  just to have a job.

This is not a concern for those who enjoy the job security of working  for California government.  The highest paid public workers in all 50  states — some of whom are able to retire as many 15 years earlier than  the private sector average with pensions nearing full time-pay —  continue to be shielded from the impact of our dismal economy by their  sponsors in the state Legislature.

Even though the cost to taxpayers for public employee retirement  benefits has increased by 2000 percent from $150 million per year to  over $3 billion over the last ten years, most in Sacramento remain with  their heads firmly planted in the sand.  And if a $3 billion dollar  shortfall does not seem like so much today, the future is revealed by a  report released by Stanford University that shows California’s public  retirement plans are underfunded by $535 billion.  That is an estimated  liability of about $36,000 per household.

Enter State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth with a modest legislative  proposal designed to help protect taxpayers while continuing to assure  the retirement security of government workers.   Hollingsworth’s  solution is to put the retirement system on a more actuarially sound  basis, with changes to the benefits for newly hired workers.

For new hires, and new hires only, his bill, SB 919, would require  non-public safety public employees, who can currently retire at age 55  with full benefits, to work until age 65.  It would extend the age for  full retirement for public safety workers from 50 to 57, while removing  milk inspectors and billboard inspectors from the public safety worker  classification.  And it would base retirement benefits on the average of  the three highest years of pay, instead and the single highest year.

Although Hollingsworth does nothing to interfere with the lavish  guaranteed pensions for current government workers, expect the public  employee unions to go “postal” and to lean heavily on client lawmakers  who they helped elect, to kill any and all pension reform legislation.   However, the union bosses would be wise to take this deal.  They should  beware the growing anger of those in the private sector forced to work  harder and longer so that public employees can fully retire in comfort  while still young enough to start a second career.

The backlash is building and the result could be a much more draconian  reform that would make the Hollingsworth plan look like a gift.  After  all, taxpayers are content to see government workers ride off into the  sunset to a secure retirement, they just don’t want to look up and find  themselves carrying them there on their backs. CRO

copyright 2010 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Jon Coupal is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization with offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like