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California's Six-Figure Pension Club Has 62,000 Members

And seven retirees in Los Angeles pulled down more than $1 million each in retirement benefits last year.

Ingram Publishing/NewscomIngram Publishing/NewscomTwo retired Los Angeles city employees—Earl Paysinger, a former deputy police chief, and Emile Mack, a former assistant fire chief—pulled down more than $1.4 million apiece in pension benefits last year, giving them the largest nest eggs across all California's public retirement systems.

Last week Transparent California released data showing that more than 62,000 retired California public workers earn at least six figures in annual retirement benefits. Paysinger and Mack are two of the seven members of the exclusive million-dollar pension club. All seven retired from the Los Angeles police or fire departments.

In a related story, more than 20 cents of every dollar spent by the Los Angeles city government now goes to fund the retirements of former employees. "The city's general fund payments for pensions and retiree healthcare reached $1.04 billion last year, eating up more than 20% of operating revenue—compared with less than 5% in 2002," the Los Angeles Times reported last year.

Previously, Transparent California had only collected data from the state's two largest pension funds: CalPERS, which pays retired public workers, and CalSERS, which pays retired teachers. The newest update includes data from the state university retirement system and local pension funds from several big cities, including Los Angeles, where some of the highest payouts occur.

The more comprehensive data reveal nearly twice as many $100,000 pensions. Using last year's data, Transparent California said Michael Johnson, a former Solano County administrator who received a $388,407 pension, was the highest-paid government retiree in the state. This year he does not even crack the top 100, a group dominated by Los Angeles police and fire retirees along with a handful of former San Diego city employees.

Paysinger, the new king of the California pension hill, spent 41 years with LAPD before retiring in 2016 to take a job as vice president of civic engagement at the University of Southern California.

Six- and seven-figure pensions are not the sole reason why California's state and local retirement funds are in trouble, but they are a part of that picture.

The CalPERS fund alone is more than $139 billion in the red. The East Bay Times reported last year that CalPERS' retirement debt "averages out to $11,000 for every California household," a relevant comparison since "taxpayers, not government workers, must make up the shortfall."

At the local level, things are even bleaker. Increasing pension costs will likely continue to crowd out resources that otherwise would go to public assistance, recreation, libraries, health, public works, and in some cases public safety, according to the authors of a new report by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

In Los Angeles, the Stanford report suggests that pension debt will grows to $11,000 per household by 2029. Since 2004, the city has shifted more than $900 million of expenditures from other services in order to fund pensions.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    Taxifornia made their bed and they need to sleep in it. NO BAILOUTS when their budget woes inevitably overwhelm that state.

    We are seeing a precursor in Illinois to failed socialist policies in US states.

  • Libertarian||

    I hope I live long enough to see this L.A. Times headline: "Trump to California: Drop Dead"

  • loveconstitution1789||

    NO!

  • Mark22||

    Democrats can't afford to lose California, so they'll do whatever it takes to bail it out, including Feinstein finally giving in to McConnell's lustful advances.

  • TO in TX||

    Gross. Just gross.

  • Mark22||

    That's California politics for you. It makes you shudder just to think about it.

  • Uncle Jay||

    I was shocked Hiltary and Trump the Grump didn't promise Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Kalifornia bailouts just to get some cheap votes.
    Maybe next time.

  • Rich||

    Earl Paysinger

    HAHAHAHAHAA!!

  • Rich||

    Increasing pension costs will likely continue to crowd out resources that otherwise would go to public assistance, recreation, libraries, health, public works, and in some cases public safety

    Look on the bright side. The folks that would have been employed in those areas won't be getting pensions!

  • Rhywun||

    No, but they'll still be on the dole.

  • Mark22||

    That's only high five figures, not six figures.

  • Rhywun||

    I guess it's win/win then. We wouldn't want pubsec castoffs to attempt and fail at anything productive.

  • Libertarian||

    Libertarians win no matter what happens! Yay!

  • Brandybuck||

    As a cop friend wants me to tell you, NOT ever retired cop is pulling down one million in pension benefits. Those number up top are outliers. They may still be shameful, but they are still outliers and not the norm.

  • retiredfire||

    And, I'll guarantee these two didn't, either.
    What they probably got was a one time payout of unused sick and vacation time, that LA would have had to pay someone else overtime for, over the full extent of their careers.
    THEY'RE NOT GOING TO GET $1.04 MILLION EACH YEAR.
    You people are too easily fooled.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    So how many years of sick and vacation time is that?

  • Richard2900||

    It's actually a one time payment of up to five years accrued pension. In those retirement systems, certain employees can retire when benefits are maxed out. They can then continue working for the employer for up to five years. When they stop working, they then get a lump sum payout of the pension that was held during that five year period. For example, it looks like Paysinger's pension is around $250,000 per year. Still ridiculous, but not a million dollar pension. These are a far cry from typical. Within the California state system, the average pension is around $28,000.

  • Sevo||

    "These are a far cry from typical. Within the California state system, the average pension is around $28,000."
    Try again.

  • Sevo||

    "They may still be shameful, but they are still outliers and not the norm."

    62,000 is a LOT of outliers. And I'm wondering what the median is, compared to those who didn't slop ot the public trough.

  • Sevo||

    BTW:
    "CalPERS provides retirement and health benefits to [...] 476,252 retirees."
    http://ctainvest.org/home/cals.....nefit.aspx
    So the "outlier" is over 13% of the lot; that's not "outliers"

  • S Moderation Douglas||

    The 62,000 is not just CalPERS. It is also CalSTRS plus many separate county and city systems. All told, the $100,000 club is about 3% and, as others have mentioned, there is no "exclusive million-dollar pension club". Those seven retirees were in the DROP program and the million was a one-time payment, not an annual pension. They are clearly marked in red on Transparent California. If the author didn't know this, he's too unintelligent to believe (or intentionally giving out "alternative facts").

  • Sevo||

    I'll believe that when I see numbers.
    Too many lies about how to fleece the taxpayers.

  • Richard2900||

    The average CALPERS pension is around $28,000. CALPERS is a statewide system that includes general state employees and other public entities which elect to join that system. However, counties and cities can operate their own separate systems, as do Los Angeles and San Diego which is where the high payouts are found. As to DROP programs, you can google it and will find an explanation of this type of deferred retirement generally, or the LA and San Diego plans particularly. I know the program was ended for new hires in 2005 in San Diego. Many of the unreasonably generous pension plan provisions have been eliminated through the state for new hires.

  • Sevo||

    Richard2900|10.24.17 @ 1:40PM|#
    "The average CALPERS pension is around $28,000."

    Not ASSERTIONS, Richard. NUMBERS!
    I've seen all the lies; try again.

  • ||

    $100,000 may be sexy, but it's not a useful number. It would be more useful to show the entire distribution curve. I'd be interested to know, for example, what percentage is greater than $50K. Additionally, how many get full/partial medical paid until death?

  • Mark22||

    Average police salary in California is upwards of $110000, and median salary is $94000.

  • S Moderation Douglas||

    That includes overtime, bonuses, etc.

    " Excluding overtime, vacation payouts and bonuses, average pay for police officers in 2014 was $85,400 and for firefighters was $84,600."
    The big pay is in large coastal cities/counties. Pay is much lower in most of the valley and mountain areas.

  • Sevo||

    " Excluding overtime, vacation payouts and bonuses, average pay for police officers in 2014 was $85,400 and for firefighters was $84,600."

    So if we don't include part of their pay, it looks like they make less?
    Did you have a valid point?

  • Libertarian||

    "And seven retirees in Los Angeles pulled down more than $1 million each in retirement benefits last year."

    And that is everything that you need to know in order to know California is corrupt.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    The East Bay Times reported last year that CalPERS' retirement debt "averages out to $11,000 for every California household," a relevant comparison since "taxpayers, not government workers, must make up the shortfall."

    Well, then! Those stupid lazy taxpayers better get with the program!

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Well, then! Those stupid lazy taxpayers better get with the program!"

    And getting with the program means moving out of the state as fast as possible and leaving that mess for somebody to deal with!

  • Ride 'Em||

    The problem is they move to states like Tennessee, start the cycle here, vote for Hillary and tell us how stupid we are for not voting for Demoncrats. This according to an article in the Guardian, which was sympathetic to them. The mayor of Nashville is from California.

  • Longtobefree||

    Paysinger, the new king of the California pension hill, spent 41 years with LAPD before retiring in 2016 to take a job as vice president of civic engagement at the University of Southern California.

    And WTF is "vice president of civic engagement" ??!

  • Mark22||

    And WTF is "vice president of civic engagement" ??!

    A newfangled term for "agitprop".

  • buddhastalin||

    a sinecure to give a minority a vice president title

  • Longtobefree||

    I would like to see the individual pension payouts per year graphed against the average wages over the same time period.
    LA ain't cheap, you know. A little context is always helpful.

  • Mark22||

    Everybody else has to make due with 401k's, why shouldn't public sector employees?

  • Sevo||

    The Dills Act; see moonbeam.

  • retiredfire||

    Are you familiar with Social Security?
    You contribute a percentage of your paycheck, your employer contributes a percentage and, when you get to a certain age, you collect a defined benefit.
    That's all public sector, and some private sector, employees have.
    The employee pays some, the employer pays some and then, when the employee retires, they get a defined benefit.
    The difference being that, in the latter case, the money gets invested and earns a return - CALPERS is one of the biggest investment funds in the nation - that goes to pay for those benefits.
    The one you are in, just sends the money down the government rat-hole and future taxpayers have to pick up the tab.
    You, and the idiot author of this piece, should educate yourselves.

  • Brian_M||

    I am glad you mentioned social security as most believe SS is insufficient to allow for retirement security. Pension plans also have employee and employers contributions so what makes them different than SS? You hit it on the head! The $$ is invested on behalf of the employee and builds wealth into the system. I cannot understand why anyone would say pensions are bad and everyone should be in a 401k system and social security. What people should be saying is everyone should be in pensions that are the only mechanism for retirement security. Why take away something good for some and put them in a bad system with others. Wouldn't it make more sense to take the people out of the bad system and put them in the good one? Just sayin!

  • Sevo||

    "Are you familiar with Social Security?"

    You seem familiar with a lot of bullshit.
    CalPERS is the worst sort of scam, promising not to bill the taxpayer if every thing is rosy and CalPERS hits it's never-possible ROI numbers:
    "Borenstein: CalPERS running up record pension debt on your credit card"
    http://www.eastbaytimes.com/20.....edit-card/
    Underfunded to the tune of $168Bn as of 6/16.
    Has hit required funding from employee payments and ROI exactly once since 2001.
    If CalPERS were publicly held, CalPERS wouldn't invest in it; the management is SJWing its way out of it fiduciary duty.
    You and every other retiree ought to send thank you notes to every taxpayer being fleeced by you and CalPERS.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: California's Six-Figure Pension Club Has 62,000 Members
    And seven retirees in Los Angeles pulled down more than $1 million each in retirement benefits last year.

    ...and California can't understand why its so heavily in debt?
    Of course, the same problem haunts New York and Illinois, both in billions of dollars in debt as well.
    Public employee pay, benefits and pensions are one of the reasons these states are ass deep in debt.

  • JWatts||

    ""The city's general fund payments for pensions and retiree healthcare reached $1.04 billion last year, eating up more than 20% of operating revenue—compared with less than 5% in 2002," the Los Angeles Times reported last year."

    That's the kicker. 20% of operating revenue going to pensions. If that number keeps growing, it won't be long before LA can't afford to pay for it's on-going expenses. Then they'll inevitably start reaching for the taxpayers wallet to make the books balance.

  • retiredfire||

    Did the LA Times tell you how many years the city paid nothing, out of its general fund, because the returns on their investments were sufficient to keep the retirement fund solvent?
    Has no one noticed that this has only become an issue since the 2008 financial meltdown? Prior to that, the returns were enough to keep pension funds afloat.
    It was only when the investments came up short that politicians had to scramble for the money, because they had been spending it on the pet vote-buying schemes.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    "only when the investments came up short".......you mean like 2 years ago when the market was up 10% and the brilliant managers at CALPERS got less than 1% for the whole year? That kind of short, lolololol.

  • Sevo||

    "Has no one noticed that this has only become an issue since the 2008 financial meltdown? Prior to that, the returns were enough to keep pension funds afloat."

    Your full of it.
    CalPERS has hit 100% funding once since 2001. It is currently running at 68%, in spite of the market breaking $23,000.
    CalPERS is a political football and should never have been founded. You and every other PubSec union employees owe the rest of us a huge 'Thank You', and you ought to be on a 401 plan like everybody else.
    I'm not the only one tired of the whining.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    So cops & firefighters were foolish enough to believe the promises of politicians instead of investing the money themselves? Hard to generate any sympathy for that gullibility. Isn't CALPers bound by some idiotic policy not to invest in certain industries (e.g. petroleum)? Sorry guys, you're screwed.

  • Sevo||

    "Isn't CALPers bound by some idiotic policy not to invest in certain industries (e.g. petroleum)? Sorry guys, you're screwed."

    Yes, CalPERS is pulling the SJW bullshit when they are supposed to be minding the store.
    But the guy above has nothing to worry about; the taxpayers make up the difference. Aren't we oh, so generous?

  • Sevo||

    retiredfire|10.23.17 @ 6:37PM|#
    "Did the LA Times tell you..."

    Did you see you've been called on your bullshit?
    C'mon, let's hear more lies to cover your ass.

  • Empress Trudy||

    I should be outraged. But this is the California California wants to be. Let it go broke. Or raise takes to the sky. Who cares?

  • Brian_M||

    This news article implies that these individuals are getting $1.6 million annual pensions. I would like to see the data to support that. I believe that is impossible as a deputy chief's regular salary is closer to $200+k. I know of no pension plan that allows for a 800% pension benefit!! What this report may be doing is distorting facts to misled readers (unless they can show the data). What I have seen in other anti-pension slanted articles is this: the employee is actually getting a pension less than their current salary. The rub is that they are paid a lump sum for all their time on the books that have been saved over the decades of work. This is common in police and fire where these workers work holidays, weekends and don't use vacation time due to emergencies like major fires. The time builds up on the books and when they retire, the government pays for all the time they didn't use over their career. Reporters use the lump sum and add it to their annual pension amount to inflate the pension claim, but in fact they do not receive this every year, only the year they retired and received the lump sum. I would ask this reporter to provide the data that supports his claim of $1.6 million annual pension. Let's at least be honest about pensions when discussing any need for reform.

  • JoeBlow123||

    The military allows something like 60 - 80 days to sit on your books before they wipe out the rest of your accrued vacation time at the end of the fiscal year. This allows someone to maybe pocket 2 - 3 months rent if they keep the maximum amount by the time they retire.

    Now riddle me this, why the crap should a police officer or fire fighter who has no deployments like the military be allowed to accrued so much friggin vacation time or whatnot that they can pocket more than a million friggin dollars in a single year in their retirement?

    As a matter of fact, why the crap is their even overtime as a police officer or fire fighter? What moron in the city government is allowing this to happen? Wanna know how much overtime the military gets? Zero. Why should they? You signed up for the job, you knew what it required. Fire fighters and police officers knew that too, they knew the working hours were odd and demanding. As far as I am concerned they should strip them from overtime pay. If they need to retain people then throw bundles of money at them in the event they cannot replace them, do not allow some gameable system that involves overtime.

  • Richard2900||

    The simplest answer is because federal law requires it. The million dollar payouts are up to five years of deferred pension payments.

  • Sevo||

    Richard2900|10.24.17 @ 1:55PM|#
    "The simplest answer is because federal law requires it."
    Cite missing

    "The million dollar payouts are up to five years of deferred pension payments."
    And that is supposed to make us feel better?
    Try again, Richard. Your bullshit is not working.

  • Richard2900||

    I was responding the question as to why these positions earn overtime. These positions are not exempt from overtime requirements under the FLSA, so federal law requires that they be paid overtime. As to the deferred pension, who claimed it should make you feel better. I think it's ridiculous, but it still isn't accrued vacation or sick leave.

  • DrZ||

    Sure, it's true that California highways are horrible and they are littered. Sure it's true that California has the most insane and restrictive gun laws in the country designed to have zero effect on criminals, but make criminals out of law abiding citizens and at great costs to law abiding tax payers. Sure it's true that California is going to solve the world's CO2 problem at the expense of the average citizen, sure...it's all true, but at least we have the highest income and sales taxes of just about anywhere in the states. Well, at least California state employees get a good retirement, at least there is that.

  • Free Oregon||

    62,000 people whose self-interest is to rape the little guy. Wow!

  • skunkman||

    Ever one of those 62,000 had an employer that paid a percentage into the retirement account the entire time that they were employed. The State refused to collect the necessary amount to pay the obligation. Why blame the group of employees?
    The other factor is that the real pension issue revolves around public safety employees that have ultra early retirement age options, 50 and 55. Thats right, do the math without public safety employees and the retirement burden is negligible. Solve the problem, immediately by raising public safety retirement to 60 and require that all employee ay an increased portion of the agency burden. If cops and fire personnel are as macho as they want you to think, let them work until 60.

  • Sevo||

    skunkman|10.23.17 @ 8:20PM|#
    "Ever one of those 62,000 had an employer that paid a percentage into the retirement account the entire time that they were employed. The State refused to collect the necessary amount to pay the obligation. Why blame the group of employees?"

    Every one of those 62,000 was a member of a union which demanded those benefits. Yeah, why blame them for threatening to go on strike if they didn't get it?
    Buzz off.

  • Lmorton||

    It would appear at first glance that most of these people are being paid out a 5-year deferred pension payment as a lump sum. It's still a lot of money, but these guys aren't pulling in these amounts every year. The way it works out looks like this:

    "DROP" stands for Deferred Retirement Option Plan. LAPD and L.A. Fire Department personnel who've worked for at least 25 years and are at least 50 years old can "retire," then go back to work immediately. When they return to work, pension payments are held while they continue collecting a salary, and after five years, they can leave and collect that money in a lump-sum payment. Here's an article about the program from a few years back.

    http://www.scpr.org/news/2011/.....n-lets-of/

    If you look at the datasheet you will notice that most of these people retired in 2011, which is consistent with the above article. Again, it's a lot of money, but the math is a little less outrageous when you take that into account.

  • Lmorton||

    You can argue that these individuals are all corrupt, but most of these individuals are simply responding rationally to the incentives in front of them and maximising their benefit through the legal means available to them. Presented with the same incentives, most people would do exactly the same. You can also argue that the organisations that push for these kinds of benefits are corrupt, but ultimately they're just arguing on behalf of their constituents, and if you don't ask for a raise, you never get one. And if your colleagues are asking for a raise, and you're not getting it for your people, you look incompetent.

    According to the article, this program was approved by voters in 2000, so you can also argue that voters are stupid, and direct democracy is counterproductive, but it's an unintended consequence of a policy that was responding to mass-retirements of experienced personnel from a large city's police force.

    In any event, the biggest net effect of all this is that it diverts resources from present needs to funding incomes for older members of society. That makes it harder to incentivize younger people to work with better pay. Those dollars do work their way back into the economy, so it's not like it's wasted money, but the spending priorities of older generations do not generally allign with the current needs of younger members of society, so it creates a mis-match and a gulf between generations.

  • Lmorton||

    So really this is just your parents' fault. Hopefully they own a house that you can inherit and use it to pay for your kids college education and then you can figure out how to pay for your own retirement.

  • Sevo||

    Did you have a point? Or just one more 'justification' for fleecing the taxpayers?

  • Heraclitus||

    I am on track to receive an okay pension. I feel very lucky. It will be no where near what these cops are getting, maybe around $30000 each year, for life. I sometimes feel guilty because many people in the private sector have to make due with 401Ks and so forth. But then I drive around and see the big houses my dentist lives in and the boats captained by the local employees of the corporation living on Defense Department contracts. And then there are the mansions the CEOs live on for companies that survive by gaming patent farms. You get my drift. We live in a world where it is the norm to get as much as you can get and not worry about it because the next guy is getting his share. It would be nice if we could see our dentist's paychecks. They lobby the government to give them the right to get paid for hygienic visits that a hygienist could perform. So they are no different than overpaid cops. I venture to guess most people use the government to prop up their paychecks. So spare me the anti-Union complaints. It certainly is wrong that cops are taking advantage of the system, but it is by no means unusual.

  • Sevo||

    "You get my drift"

    Yeah, we do.
    You contributed nothing to the world, but you are really envious of what those who did earned and fuck them if they have to pay for your benefits.
    Fuck you, you slimy piece of shit who slurped at the public trough.

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