K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published on topics
including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform,
and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]
Sellout is New California Gold Rush
Paying for everything…
[K. Lloyd Billingsley] 7/13/04
can sleep well tonight knowing that milk testers, billboard
inspectors, and deputy directors
at the department of real estate are watching out for their safety,
fortified with pensions 25-percent richer than those of other
The big bucks
kicked in Thursday, July 1, when the legislature missed the
for rescinding a pension increase that was
the result of, as a union lawyer put it, "buying Gray Davis." But
it didn't have to stand.
McClintock authored SB 9, which would have rescinded the increases,
normally reserved for police
The Sacramento Bee backed the bill to the hilt, charging that
the raised pensions were the result of "tainted legislation" that
should be repealed. The paper also blasted Assembly Democrats
for taking evasive action rather than a principled stand.
Legislators responded by killing the bill in committee, preventing
it not only from reaching the governor but from the full debate
Cash strapped California has missed this opportunity to save
more than $200 million over 20 years. Those who will foot the
bill, taxpayers, should understand that this was not a stand-alone
issue but part of a trend. Public employee pensions are the new
California gold rush.
In 1932 the legislature established a retirement system and
in 1935 added a separate category for the Highway Patrol, with
enhanced benefits. In 1947 firefighters and game wardens also
gained the bigger benefits. By the 1960s about one in 20 state
workers received the fatter retirements.
The 1970s saw the
addition of prison guards, teachers, custodians, machinists
and plumbers, and laborers and other workers in the
prisons, even the bedding factory supervisor. During the 1980s
the CHP got a new "super-safety" category and the legislature
added workers in mental hospitals, including nurses. During the
1990s the floodgates opened further.
The safety retirement
category gained 21 new classifications in 1991, including business
managers, industrial superintendents,
and plant managers. In 1993 prison dentists, doctors, psychiatrists,
psychologists, social workers, and speech pathologists got on
board. So did many workers at mental hospitals declared "forensic."
In 2002 came the measure
that gave the 25-percent fatter pensions to livestock inspectors,
milk testers, funeral home inspectors,
fingerprint analysts, and the DMV workers who give driving tests.
Now nearly one in three state workers gets the enhanced "safety" retirement,
a group that has more than tripled over the past 20 years. It
excludes highway maintenance workers, a truly dangerous job.
Those who want this group to continue expanding, public employee
unions, were able to sell the idea that the high-tech boom would
pay for it all. It won't. California taxpayers will, in an already
high-tax state still saddled with a budget mess and still hostile
What we have here is a textbook case of bad government. The
American founders, as some may have recalled on July 4, wanted
government to promote the general welfare, rather than benefit
the few at the expense of the many. In the current California
class system, the role of the many is simply to pay for everything.
What the late Frank Zappa astutely noted about Washington also
applies to Sacramento. The people there are looking out for number
one. And number one ain't you. You ain't even number two. CRO
2004 Pacific Research Institute