State worker group speaks out on pension reputation

May 4, 2011 8:03:12 PM PDT
Government workers and retirees, who call themselves the Pension Truth Squad, held signs outside the Capitol saying they don't own yachts, Bentleys, or even mansions. They're just average folks earning small retirement checks that average $2,200 a month, hardly the headline grabbing amounts given to high earners that have sparked outrage against public workers in general.

"We're just hoping to change that image by explaining the facts, which are that public employees are not lavishly paid and compensated in retirement," said Brent Meyer from the Peace Officers Research Association.

Inside the Capitol, an Assembly committee helped the group's cause by approving a proposal to end pension abuses, especially spiking where public employees pad their last check with unused vacation and sick time and even car allowances. The proposal was a result of the Bell scandal, where former city manager Robert Rizzo stood to make $600,000 a year in retirement.

"Some public employees have taken advantage of this situation to include items in their compensation package that spike their final compensation to create vastly increased pension checks for themselves," said Assm. Warren Furutani, D-South Los Angeles County.

The committee also approved rules to dissuade double dipping, where a public employee retires on a Friday, but then returns to work the following Monday earning not only a regular check, but also a pension.

The worker must now wait six months to double dip and is limited to only 980 work hours a year. Pension reform groups say it's not enough.

"It's clear we can't do what we need to do to save California's finances, both at the state and local level unless we change the benefits fundamentally and the cost of those benefits going forward," said Dan Pellissier from California Pension Reform.

Governor Brown is hoping to include more pension reform in the final California budget.