By C. T. Weber

Posted on November 11, 2011 by the Website Workers Council

The following letter appeared in the October 2011 issue of the newsletter of California State Retirees.

California’s public pensions are under attack. Why? Because public pension funds, with 1.6 million members, control billions of dollars that the financial vampires would like to get their teeth into.

One way to do that is to confuse the voting taxpayers into thinking that public retirees are receiving six figure retirement checks. Not true, fewer than 2 percent of CalPERS retirees have retirements above $100,000 a year. These are mostly retired high ranking public officials.

The average public pension in California, after 20 to 30 years of service, is $25,000 a year. In fact, half of CalPERS retirees receive $18,000 or less.

California taxpayers are also told that they are paying for these public pensioners. In reality, investment returns pay for about 64 percent of the pension. Most public workers pay about 15 percent toward their pensions.

The state’s portion has been negotiated with public employees as part of the compensation package. As such, case law interpreting the U.S. and California Constitutions ruled that public employee retirement benefits are a vested contract right.

Even so, the state of California pays less today than it did in 1980. CalPERS pension costs represented 1.8 percent of the 2010 state general fund.

Not only are public employees taxpayers themselves, but they actually contribute billions of dollars to our local communities. Public employees are a vital part of the economy of these communities as well as the state.

California policymakers need to shift their focus to the billions of dollars in tax breaks for the super wealthy and their corporations.

C. T. Weber is the 2010-2012 state chair of the Peace and Freedom Party, and a member of Chapter 2 of California State Retirees.

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