The Latest Scam from California's Public-Sector Unions

Golden State lawmakers prepare to shovel more money to well-compensated government workers.


If California voters grant the state government the massive income-tax and sales-tax increases that Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats have been demanding via November's Proposition 30, those same officials will quickly squander the money by shoveling even more benefits to those already well-compensated government workers.

For evidence, pay close attention to a police- and firefighter-union enrichment scam that came within a whisker of becoming law.

Even in its watered-down form, AB2451 would have opened the state's cities and municipalities to an endless amount of liabilities for the families of deceased police and firefighters. The legislation also revealed the surreptitious way benefits are expanded in California, as unions work the system to quietly gain significant compensation hikes. It proves that legislators have in no way reformed their free-spending ways, despite a veto.

In the private sector, employees typically receive injury and death benefits through insurance policies, and such benefits are linked to work performed on the job. In "public safety" jobs in the public sector, taxpayers foot the bill for disability and death benefits. Politicians—always currying favor with the unions that represent police, firefighters, and prison guards—continually expand the categories of illness that are presumed to be caused by job-related injuries.

So if a retired firefighter or cop gets heart disease, cancer, or any number of other common diseases late in life, it is presumed to be caused by the job and that releases a stream of taxpayer-funded benefits. Under current law, if that employee dies from myriad ailments within four-and-a-half years after the date of injury, the family can receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in survivorship benefits. In the public sector, it's far easier to make a claim than in the private sector.

Apparently, this wasn't generous enough for Assembly Speaker John Perez and the Democratic leadership. They came up with a plan that allows family members of deceased police and firefighters to claim more than $300,000 in survivorship benefits up to a year after the person's death, no matter how old that retired public-safety official may be.

The bill also specified the ailments that are considered "hero ailments"—deaths cause by working as a cop or firefighter. These include: hernia, pneumonia, heart trouble, cancer and leukemia, tuberculosis, blood-borne infectious diseases, and certain skin infections.

As the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, summarizing arguments against the bill by local governments, explained: "Thus, any retired safety officer who dies in his or her 80's or 90's of a cancer or heart related condition would be presumed to have a work-related cause, and his or her dependents would be entitled to a death benefit. But with the incidence of cancer and heart conditions as the cause of death for many elderly people, the causation for someone 20, 30, or more years removed from service is much more debatable."

The legislation was amended to "merely" expand the time in which a benefit claim can be made to nine years after injury. It removed a couple of the presumptions from the list, but this still would have been a costly and ridiculous giveaway and provides insight into how legislators think.

Still, it passed overwhelmingly. It even had some original support from Republicans, until Jon Fleischman of the Republican-oriented Flashreport Web site and others started waving the red flags and GOP support evaporated.

"What is needed is rational, thoughtful consideration of balancing the serious fiscal constraints faced at all levels of government against our shared priority to adequately and fairly compensate the families of those public safety heroes who succumb to work-related injuries and disease," Gov. Brown said in his on-point veto message.

But Brown is not so much a born-again fiscal conservative, as someone so committed to the Prop. 30 tax hike plan that he will not give opponents any ammunition to use against it. As the Sacramento Bee reported, "Larry Gerston, a government professor at San Jose State University, said that Brown's moderation in bill signings points to a much larger goal: passing Proposition 30, his multibillion-dollar tax hike, in November."

Brown reminds me of the kid who is on his best behavior—i.e., cleaning his room and cutting the lawn—to prove to Mom and Dad that he deserves that new bicycle. Don't figure the new habits to continue long after he gets what he wants.

AB 2451 is built on the fiction, perpetrated by unions eager to use emotional claims to divert more tax dollars to their members, that police officers and firefighters have such dangerous jobs that they die early and leave their families destitute.

But based on data from the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the longest-living category of public employee is a police officer, followed closely behind by firefighters. They live, on average, well into their 80s, which is one of the reasons the state has such a large unfunded pension liability. Public-safety workers receive, by far, the most generous pension and health-care benefits. In California, they can retire with 90 percent of their final year's pay at age 50—and spouses receive generous benefits too. Police and firefighters don't come near the top of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most-dangerous jobs.

The Democrats are always talking about shared sacrifice, yet the same-old, same-old takes place in the Capitol—powerful interest groups keep pushing for, and often getting, more.

The state is out of cash. Brown reminds us of that every chance he can. Cities are teetering on bankruptcy, thanks largely to pensions, medical benefits, and other compensation paid to municipal employees. Taxpayers and job-creators are fleeing the state. Legislators should be reforming the system so that California can be competitive again. Instead, they want to keep comforting the comfortable (union members) and afflicting the afflicted (taxpayers).

Yes, Brown vetoed some of the worst nonsense, but AB 2451 shows you what the Legislature will do when it has more money and no one is looking. Is it wise to give them more funds?

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  1. I fucking hate this state. Now, because of our absurd, expensive, and counter-productive boutique blend gasoline demands, a single refinery fire has us experiencing shortages at the pump (and prices have jumped $.20/gallon overnight). The CA Air Resources Board is still “considering” allowing other state’s blends into CA as a temporary measure. You gotta be fucking kidding me. They know that we need gasoline to meet the market demand, but they’re afraid of allowing non-CA specific blends in because they know that when consumers see the price of that, they’ll demand reform for our ethanol blend corn subsidy bullshit.

    1. But don’t forget that regulations have no effect on economic activity.

      1. On the contrary, they improve it, make jobs and rainbows and happy dancing sprites!

        1. ^this^

          Only more regulations, more government, more bureaucracy, and MOAR taxes can improve the economy. Everyone knows this to be a proven fact.

        2. At least according to Obama

    2. Get this bullshit: the San Joaquin CARB is not considering allowing non-CA blends into the central valley AND they are actually prepared to propose a ban on drive-thru restaurants because they are non-compliant with idling rules (not laws, but rules) that are in place.

      BTW, if you’re caught idling a piece of off-road equipment longer than the alloted time, the fines are progressive and are not appeal-able. And the funny shit is, the new HUSS filters and other aftermarket systems to get Tier 0 or Tier I machines up to spec create a need for the piece to idle longer at startup just to get to operating temperature.

      It’s a fucking hellhole.

      1. Wow, Cali is more insane than Murland, and that is really saying a lot. But just give us a little more time and I am sure we can catch up.

        1. What’s worse is that this is happening in Kern County, arguably one of the most conservative parts of the state. Unfortunately, the CARB aren’t elected locally otherwise these bureaucrats would be getting the tar-n-feather treatment.

          1. Unfortunately, the CARB aren’t elected locally otherwise these bureaucrats would be getting the tar-n-feather treatment.

            Actually, seems like more of a reason. If you elect them, you can unelect them. But when the King appoints them from England (or Sacramento), that seems to be the most useful time for the tar and feather.

      2. AND they are actually prepared to propose a ban on drive-thru restaurants

        Is there anything that Cali would not consider a ban on?

          1. I should have seen that one coming…

          2. Abortionists kill the state’s children. Who will the teachers teach? Who will pay for the pensioners?

        1. Solar powered high speed monorails.

        2. Time to get a rope and find a tree high enough to hang people from.

      3. Holy. shit.

        I’m something approaching speechless. The San Joaquin CARB apparently doesn’t realize that a significant portion of its economic activity is actually LA-SF commuters driving thru for a bite.

        1. They shouldn’t be consuming that bad food anyways. Please don’t tell me they are getting 32 oz. sugary drinks at these evil drive-thus.

      4. for your info the fine is $10,000 dollars for the first 5 minute offense.

    3. San Francisco just banned plastic bags, and mandated that all (AFAIK) stores charge 10 cents for a frikkin’ paper bag. Now that our local politicians have solved all the other more important problems, they can meddle in retailer’s bag policies.

    4. Yeah that Jeryy Brown – one hell of a govenor!

      1. Apparently the morons in CA didn’t learn anything from Brown’s first stint as governor.

  2. As soon as any tax increases are passed, the legislators will start talking about how public employees have “suffered” for so many years of “austerity” that they “need” large new compensation increases.

    1. Gah! Have you received the press clippings from the future?!

      1. Foreseeing that Public Service Unions will claim that they deserve special treatment is like foreseeing that Wiley Coyote’s latest package from ACME is going to make him wind up at the bottom of the canyon.

        1. But he has the language down pat. Its almost like he is reading a transcript of a press conference of CA Dems announcing the Restore All Public Employees bill.

          1. the Restore All Public Employees bill.

            I saw what you did there, but you should have used “act” instead of “bill”.

  3. These public unions and their politicians will steal your money until you haven’t any more money to steal, or, until you find a way to fire them all.

    No other way out. They get canned or we all go broke before they’re sated (and they still won’t be sated).

    1. but, but..l look how good big government socialism is working out in Europa. They have 0% unemployment, and no debt! Why do you hate the children?

  4. Voting Yes on 32 and No on 30 and 38. Why? Because fuck the unions and the children they’re using as shields, that’s why.

    1. What? They are really screwing up only using the children as shields. All good socialists know that you have to use the wimins folk and the brown folks too.

      1. Yeah, children are too small to make proper shields. Especially at the size some of these public servants have reached.

        1. I direct your attention to certain Nomads in Borderlands 2, who have solved the size problem by strapping as many as three midgets to their shields.

          1. I love making short work of Badass Nomads by sniping their midgets and then Phaselocking the fuckers and unloading my incendiary assault rifle into them in the air. FUCK YOU BUDDY

            1. That’s right, you’re playing as a girl. I had forgotten.

              1. I fight like a girl. With powers.

          2. strapping as many as three midgets to their shield

            midget shield strapping? My Gawd, that is worse than cat juggling! Where are the Dems on this one? They aren’t going to stand up for midget rights and ban this evil game?

            1. I heard Biden just today talking about Obama “standing up for the little people,” yet his silence is deafening on this midget-strapping outbreak.

              1. It is proof positive that the Dems really do not care for the little people!

  5. The unions are truly living up to being utter and total parasites, and the politicians–parasites in their own right–are aiding and abetting them. This will never stop. Not ever. Welcome to our new fiscal reality, in perpetuity.

    1. It ends when they run out of money and there is no one left to bail them out or loan them more money.

      1. IOW, it ends in violence. In this case, a violent uprising of the union employees with the police as their shield.

  6. I don’t know why Cavanaugh is worried about this. They’ll offset any difference with revenue generated by the HSR trains.

    1. Not to mention the tax revenue on the huge profits made by the Solar Power industry.

  7. Just wondering, has Tony ever explained why he lives in Oklahoma and not in his heaven, California?

    1. Restraining orders?

      Statute of limitations?

      Sex offender registry?

      All of the above, perhaps?

      1. In Oklahoma he’s a gay prom queen. In California he’s just “run of the mill”!

        1. You might be onto something, there. I had imagined it was because there were more rough-trade cowboy types in Oklahoma, as opposed to the preponderance of hirsute bears and manscaped twinks in California.

  8. Hero Ailments?? They left out VD.

  9. California, the land that is, is one of the best regions in the country. They have ports for trade, great farmland, and natural resources. It’s amazing that unions can take all of that and ruin it. I lived out there and witnessed it. Businesses struggle badly enough but individuals are taxed and nickeled and dimed in every way possible. A simple parking ticket is well over $100, and they hand out parking tickets illegally yet there’s nothing you can do about it.

  10. I live in CA; all of you knocking the state–unless you live here, you really have no idea. The old saw: “the inmates have taken over the asylum” could never be more true. The whole state is full of nuts and illegals. Most of the illegals are not nuts, but some are.

    In fairness, the problem is pretty much the coast and Sacramento. Inland CA is populated by pretty reasonable people. Look at a red/blue map sometime–the Left dominates a very small amount of geography. Unfortunately, it is all the votes.

  11. Golden State lawmakers prepare to shovel more money to well-compensated government workers.

  12. Yet the mainstream news doesn’t cover brilliant stories such as this one. I wonder why?

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