In 2012, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy took home $329,844 without working a day, but he wasn’t the only government employee to make $300,000-plus a year who didn’t punch a time clock.
A UCLA official got $320,998. A Los Angeles County sanitation district employee scored $304,661. A public defender received $327,642.
Astonishingly enough, there was nothing illegal about these four employees receiving $1.28 million in one year despite never working a single minute for taxpayers.
That’s because those $300,000-plus checks are retirement payouts from the Los Angeles County pension system and California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
Scandalized? It’s just a drop in the bucket of shocking information now available on TransparentCalifornia.com, where more than 1 million pension and 2 million compensation records shed new light on the state’s government employees. Anyone with an Internet connection can quickly and easily search the site by name and job title – and identify how much government employees make while working and when retired.
Many have long suspected that thousands of government employees retire with lavish compensation packages, years before the average age of retirement in the private sector. Transparent California allows taxpayers to find out. In tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of cases, the public information on Transparent California confirms those suspicions.
For instance, Transparent California shows that two pensioners received more than $500,000 each in 2012, more than $1,366 a day for being retired. The median household income in California is $61,400, so these pensioners received more in one day from their government-backed pension than the median California household earns in a week. It’s the true face of California’s left-wing economics – raising taxes on poor and middle-class families so government employees can retire on pensions that put them squarely amid the top 1 percent of earners.
Nor are the eye-popping pensions exclusive to those at the very top. Transparent California shows that well over 30,000 retired government employees received pensions, including benefits, of more than $100,000 in 2012. These include California State Teachers’ Retirement System retirees with pensions of more than $216,000, $236,000 and $251,000.
Lest we forget, astronomically high pensions come from even higher salaries, and a quick look at the information on Transparent California reveals those in abundance.
A Los Angeles County nurse made more than $542,000 in total compensation in 2012. The city manager in the small town of West Hollywood banked more than $422,000 in total compensation. Compensation isn’t ballooning simply because of exorbitant benefits packages. Excluding benefits, a corrections lieutenant for the state of California made more than $597,000 in 2012.
Again, it’s not just those at the top who benefit so wildly. A Los Angeles County executive secretary made more than $151,000, and the county’s parks and recreation director made more than $275,000 in total compensation for 2012.
Meanwhile, hundreds of firefighters received compensation packages of more than $300,000 in 2012, with a large number earning more in overtime pay than in base salary.
Put it all together, and California faces a fast-ticking time bomb. In the next few years, tens of thousands of these government employees will retire and trade in their inflated salaries for $100,000, $200,000 or even $300,000-plus pension payouts.
This system isn’t sustainable. In painstaking detail, Transparent California shows why – pension record by pension record, salary record by salary record. Transparent California allows taxpayers to see exactly where their money is going and to whom, empowering them to demand the changes they need to prevent hundreds of future government employees from bankrupting the state without lifting a finger.
Mark Bucher is president of the California Public Policy Center, a non-profit that provides financial information and analysis of California’s state and local governments. It is headquartered in Tustin.
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