California

"No true liberal or progressive should support current public employee compensation."

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So a $53,000-a-year secretary, a $95,000-a-year "creeks supervisor" and a $67,000-a-year "tennis services coordinator" all walk into a bar…

To hear the punchline, check out the California Center for Public Policy's new report Reforming Public Employee Compensation and Pensions [pdf].

A coffee break too far.

While much of the report's content  will be familiar to regular readers of Reason's pension coverage, there's a very informative section (pages 10-16) breaking down how work rules have resulted in an effective four-day week for most government employees in California and describing the mechanisms that public-sector carbon blobs use to set up retirement packages that in many cases pay more than their full salaries.

The result:

No other employees in California work as little as government employees both as to days and hours, are paid more for comparable work, are as secure in their employment, have better benefits, will receive more guaranteed salary increases during the course of their careers, enjoy more favorable working conditions, or receive higher pensions for which they paid less.

The report, by CCPP president Lanny Ebenstein, was done with the cooperation of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation, a donor to the Reason Foundation.

Ebenstein comes out strongly in favor of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi's Proposition B, describing it with the ominous-sounding phrase, "The eyes of the nation are on San Francisco." Ebenstein notes that Prop B "would effect the most employees and crucially existing employees, including public safety."

Two things worth noting here : Adachi is not what you'd call a limited-government libertarian. Nor is Gov. Schwarzenegger, who is in great part responsible for turning the public-sector pension crisis from an arcane subject into a national issue. Willie Brown, David Crane and most of the other people we've been covering on this topic are not exactly anarcho-capitalists either. The impetus for pension reform is coming solidly from good liberals, who recognize featherbedding by the public-employee bishopric as a serious threat to their vision of a more responsible government.

The other hard truth alluded to above, and underscored throughout the study, is that the really out-of-control compensation and pension troubles are coming from cops and firefighters. While the story of million-dollar-Bell City Manager Bob Rizzo and his gang of mafiosi makes great copy (and it's a gift that keeps on giving), at some point we need to reckon with the fact that public safety employees -- who are generally held in high regard by the public and whose jobs even many libertarians consider necessary -- are bankrupting local and state governments all over the country. And they've got all the guns.