Ready for a real "mad as hell" taxpayer fleecing story occurring at the state level of government? And you thought it was just the public sector union leadership taking the taxpayers to the cleaners. No way.
The Unions' accomplices and real leaders all too often are our very own "public servants."
State Politicans and the Public Pension Cookie Jar will make you sick, mad or both. So please take the time to read it and weep. Then have your friends and neighbors do so as well. Here it is:
"Scott Walker's victory in Wisconsin should energize efforts around the
country to reform one of the biggest perks protected by public-employee unions:
retirement benefits, which are piling up to the tune of $3 trillion in unfunded
promises to state and local workers. But for reformers to tackle this issue,
lawmakers have to overcome one crucial special interest: themselves.
Legislators in dozens of states have crafted retirement perks that are even
more generous than those of their government employees. As states and
municipalities confront the crushing cost of pension promises, these elected
officials are being asked to rein in a system they benefit from.
Illinois residents recently got a glimpse of the double standard at work when
they learned how former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley had gamed the system. In
early 2011, as he was ending his 22-year tenure, Mr. Daley complained of the
growing cost of government and warned that rich pension benefits for public
workers might sink Chicago's budget. But he didn't mention that he had exploited
the system he was criticizing to boost his own final retirement package to
$183,000 a year.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Daley hit the jackpot using an obscure
loophole in Illinois pension law. As a former assemblyman, he is allowed by the
retirement plan to collect both a legislative and mayoral pension. What's more,
while mayor he was allowed to re-enter the state legislature's pension system
for a month so that his legislative pension would ultimately be based not on his
small legislative salary of $17,500, but on the much larger salary he earned as
mayor. The result: He now collects an additional $50,000 a year in retirement
Elected officials in dozens of states enjoy similarly generous deals. In
Arizona, Florida and Kentucky, for instance, the pensions of legislators are
calculated with a more generous "multiplier" than those of regular employees.
(The "multiplier" is used in the equation that translates a worker's years of
service into the percentage of his final salary that he will receive as
retirement pay—the longer one works, the larger the percentage.)
In Arizona, the multiplier for all current legislators is four, or nearly
twice that of ordinary government workers. The Arizona Republic newspaper
estimates that a lawmaker retiring after 20 years with a $100,000 salary would
receive a pension of $80,000 annually, while a state worker would garner $43,000
for the same years of work. (Legislation last year lowered the multiplier for
new lawmakers to three—still a premium over other workers).
Lawmakers in some states also enrich themselves by basing pension
calculations on something other than salary. This is particularly common in
states with part-time legislatures that pay low salaries. Raising salaries or
making legislators full-time isn't politically popular, so lawmakers instead
arrange the pension system to provide greater benefits in retirement.
In Texas, a lawmaker's pension is figured not from his final salary but from
the average salary of the state's judges. Last year, USA Today reported on
long-serving Texas Rep. Tom Craddick, who despite his part-time legislator's
salary of $7,200 is guaranteed a yearly pension of $125,000.
Another trick in more than a dozen states: Calculate pensions based not only
on salary but on expenses, too. In some cases, legislators don't even have to
verify their expenses by filing receipts. They are simply granted per diems that
automatically get piled on top of their final salary.
In Minnesota, per diems range from $77 for representatives to $86 for
senators throughout a 140-day legislative session, according to the St. Cloud
Times. That increases legislators' pay by nearly one-fourth.
USA Today detailed the case of South Carolina state Sen. David Thomas, whose
$32,390 pension was triple his part-time legislator's salary of $10,400—thanks
to the Palmetto State allowing lawmakers to boost their retirement pay by adding
expenses on top of their salaries. The law also allows legislators to collect
pensions while still in office. Gov. Nikki Haley, who served five years in South
Carolina's House of Representatives, hasn't yet made good on her promise to
reduce the cost of legislators' retirement plans.
Then there's double-dipping, or legislators collecting two checks from
government (which other government employees are barred from doing). Some 20
states allow government workers, if elected to office, to retire from their
previous jobs and start collecting pensions while also collecting their
legislative salaries. This year the Sunday Telegram in Worcester, Mass.,
described the case of state Sen. Michael O. Moore, who earns $75,845 annually as
a legislator and $28,840 in state pension payments for having retired as an
assistant deputy jail superintendent.
In New Jersey, elected officials can start collecting their lawmakers'
pension once they qualify for it (based on a complex system of accumulating
so-called retirement credits), yet stay in office and also garner a salary. One
New Jersey state senator, Loretta Weinberg, justified taking a $36,000 pension
while still collecting a $49,000 salary on grounds that she had lost money in
the Bernie Madoff scandal. Despite taxpayer anger after press reports of her
dual incomes, Ms. Weinberg's colleagues elected her majority leader in November
Although New Jersey passed pension reform for government employees last year,
the law did little to restrict legislative prerogatives. The online site New
Jersey Watchdog recently reported on a triple-dipper: state Sen. Fredrick Madden
Jr., who earns a $49,000 salary as a senator, a $106,983 salary as a police
academy dean, and an $85,272 annual pension as a retired police officer.
Given all these advantages, it's not surprising that legislators have been
slow to change their states' pension systems. Politically powerful government
unions play a major role in keeping state and local pension systems expensive,
but legislators often have an even greater interest in the current system—their
own generous retirement packages."
It's much worse than a fox and the henhouse issue, for sure.
We the People must insist on openness and then explanations for why our government officials enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers in such a "quiet and scheming" manner. After all, it's our money they're giving themselves.
Once upon a time I thought, as perhaps did you, that they were there to serve us.
Now we all know better.
In government spending it's OPM all the way, and the view from "on high" is that the cookie jar can always be replenished at the expense of the gullible and unknowing taxpayers.
Until We the People put a stop to it.
So let's do that.