Of all of the states that desperately need a bailout from the federal government, California stands alone when it comes to the severity of its problems.
As Forbes reported Tuesday, the state has a $54 billion budget shortfall. California’s unfunded pension liabilities top $1 trillion. CalPERS, the largest of these, lost a whopping $69 billion in the stock market in March thanks to the novel coronavirus’ impact, according to the Sacramento Bee.
It’s unsurprising, then, that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken the lead in requesting a Brobdingnagian amount of money from Washington to help out state and local governments — especially his own.
Never mind the fact that California already has an issue with prisoners released under COVID-19 penitentiary clear-outs allegedly reoffending. Closing two more prisons is the best way to save $400 million a year, right?
Or, here’s another strategy: California could trim some of the fat from the 340,390 state employees and retirees with six-figure incomes who cost the state $45 billion a year.
“Our auditors at OpentheBooks.com found truck drivers in San Francisco making $159,000 per year; lifeguards in LA County costing taxpayers $365,000; nurses at UCSF making up to $501,000; the UCLA athletic director earning $1.8 million; and 1,420 city employees out-earning all 50 state governors ($202,000),” Forbes reported.
Forbes identified several cases in which the Golden State is paying frightful amounts of money to employees whose worth likely isn’t commensurate with their remuneration.
In K-12 public education, 109,627 individuals — teachers and school administrators alike — make six figures. Summit Everest charter schools CEO Diane Tavenner takes home $450,115 in taxpayer money. Michael Lin, superintendent of the Corona-Norco Unified School District, makes $443,875 a year. Polly Bove of Fremont Union High School District makes $395,257.
In higher education, the numbers are slightly better: 66,403 employees at colleges and universities make six figures. UCLA athletic director David Guerrero, on his way out for performance-related reasons, made $1.8 million per year. At least he’s not football coach Chip Kelly, who makes $3.3 million a year despite a 7-17 record with the Bruins.
Those are two outliers, but there are still 11,310 public employees at state colleges and universities — and not all of them, I can avouch to you, are ADs or football coaches.
Forbes said the State of California itself has 62,204 employees making six figures, including Ito Chikako, a University of California nurse who brings home over a half-million dollars a year. David Winsor Sirkin, a senior psychiatrist with the state’s Correctional and Rehabilitative Services, makes over $400,000.
And don’t forget cities and towns. There, 45,718 individuals make six figures. Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana takes home $396,158, and West Hollywood City Manager Paul Arevalo makes $353,603. Four other city managers mentioned made over $300,000.
This is just the six-figure employees, mind you. “In 2017, we found that 44 lifeguards in Los Angeles County cost taxpayers between $200,000 and $365,000. Today, it’s worse with salaries comprising only about half the total cost when including overtime, extra pay and benefits,” Forbes reported.
Also, another 28,000 federal employees making six figures while working in California’s executive agencies weren’t mentioned. I suppose that’s only fair considering it’s our problem now as opposed to being our problem when California makes it our problem come the next coronavirus stimulus package.
Looking further into the article, you move into singular cases that, while not representative of a massive numerical trend, will still manage to add a solid 10 points to your systolic blood pressure.
For instance: “Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) is double dipping the pay and pension systems. Retired at age 50 from the Sacramento County Sheriff, Cooper earned a $173,820 pension. He makes $107,242 as an elected member of the general assembly — although he refused the non-taxable per diem that’s estimated at $39,000 a year. Total benefit: $281,162.”
While Newsom — who earns less than many of these individuals at just over $200,000 — has said he would implement a 10 percent salary cut across the board for government employees, he’s also said that if his state gets the federal money he’s asking for, he’ll forgo that cut.
Of course, there were reasons and/or excuses for this sort of spending largesse.
“Reaching out to all governments mentioned, Santa Clara responded saying that their city is complex and they compete for talent in Silicon Valley,” Forbes reported. “Palm Springs responded by saying the city manager is cutting his pay by 20-percent to $288,579.”
Even by the low standards of public sector union contracts — in which the government negotiates against itself and sticks the taxpayers with the bill — California has always been uniquely bad, long assuming a can kicked down the road enough times will eventually disappear.
Now that the road has very abruptly come to an end, the Golden State is demanding we all pay for its decades-long inability to make any kind of mildly uncomfortable choice.
Mind you, the state won’t countenance any kind of austerity — or even asperity — in return for this bailout, but rest assured you’ll have its undying gratitude (or something).
California has far deeper problems than cleaning out two prisons would solve. But then again, that chosen method of saving a drop in the bucket when it comes to the state budget dovetails nicely with the Democrats’ policy prescriptions. Taking on public sector unions doesn’t.
So what if the former doesn’t save as much money and puts the people of California at risk? That’s what the federal government is there for, right?
This won’t be a painless process for any state, least of all those that showed no inclination toward fiscal continence when times were good.
If they want your money, we should demand better — and so should the people of California, whose safety is being compromised under the false pretense of saving the state’s money.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.