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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

City, County Officials Whisper 'Bankruptcy' to Solve Pension Woes

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 11:45 AM

click to enlarge Wheeee!
  • Wheeee!

McClatchy Newspapers Pension Investigation: More Local Government Accounts Looking As Red As Bankrupt Vallejo's; California's 80 Largest City and County Governments Face $28 Billion Shortfall.

SF Weekly Follow: Failure is no obstacle to the pension good life: CalPers records show $197,421 yearly for Ex-BART top cop Gary Gee, who retired amid the furor following the Oscar Grant shooting scandal.

As San Francisco prepares to vote on June's Prop D, a measure designed to slow the city's escalating pension debt, other California cities are considering more drastic action, according to a Sacramento Bee investigation published today.

Californians feel the impact of the rising costs. Local governments are cutting unrelated programs -- everything from parks to public safety -- to help pay for pension plans. Downsizing likely will continue both because pension contributions often are legal mandates, and, even with a recovering economy, because much damage already has been done.

A very few places are whispering about the nuclear option: bankruptcy. The Bay Area port city of Vallejo already went this route, largely to break its agreements with its employees.

While few American workers have it as good as San Francisco public employees, state government workers don't have it so bad either. At least 66 retired state workers located here make more than $100,000 per year, out of a statewide total of 9,111, according to the advocacy group California Pension Reform.

click to enlarge bankrupt.jpg

(We urge Snitch readers to mine the CPR database, or other records, for Gary Gee-like tidbits and e-mail them to me.)

The Bee story doesn't enumerate local governments' big-league pensioners, but does quote public officials suggesting retirees' high living will spell misery for many of the rest of us.

Per today's Bee:

"I have to believe everyone understands that pension costs are going to break all of the local governments in California," said Vito Chiesa, a supervisor in Stanislaus County, which soon will negotiate for similar reductions in benefits. "I think everyone will see it is unsustainable."

Also worth checking out are the Bee story's 380 (and counting) comments. It's a battle between residents outraged over a massive transfer of wealth potentially burying communities everywhere, and government employees who believe they deserve every pension penny they get.

Stay tuned as this battle becomes the biggest in California politics.

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