A modest proposal for pension spikers

Readers respond to Sunday’s column about the state pension system resisting reform:

—Scott Thompson writes,

“Introducing the NEW California Alternative Pension System for Spikers!

“CalPERS recently thumbed its underfunded nose at the governor and legislature, saying, in effect, “We are going to continue to allow spiking, as we have been doing for many years, and we’ll continue to burden the majority of our members who don’t spike their pensions, and of course taxpayers, with the excess cost of this shamefully reckless policy.”

The state’s second-largest public pension fund, CalSTRS, at least claims to be “serious about spiking,” yet has adjusted only a handful of the many hundreds of dramatically juiced retirement accounts on its books.

“Nobody in an administrative position is willing to stop spiking, so perhaps we should finally accept that this is, as pension journalist Ed Mendel aptly puts it, “the nail that apparently can’t be hammered down.” Accept that it cannot be stopped, and opt instead to isolate it, not unlike the hemorrhage-inducing ebola virus.

“How would this work? By creating a new pension fund exclusively for those who game the existing ones. That is, anyone who wants to spike their pension, and can get away with it under current fund leadership and rules, is allowed to do so, but automatically gets moved into a spikers-only pension system immediately upon retirement.

“The new California Alternative Pension System for Spikers (CalAPSS) would be funded only by the contributions and investment earnings of its members’ accounts, and no non-spikers or taxpayers would ever be asked to subsidize it.

“It’s easy to imagine how quickly CalAPPS would, yes, collapse under the greedy weight of its grossly underfunded member accounts. And this, of course, makes it obvious why CalPERS and CalSTRS should tolerate exactly zero spiking among their members.”

Those unions don’t tolerate pension spiking; they encourage it. That’s why Gov. Brown had to restrain them with his modest Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013. Which CalPERS just undermined.

—”M” writes,

“If you get your way tell me first because 2000 of us real retired people of Stockton will have to make reservations at the poor house. I contributed hard cash to PERS when I worked for the City. My money. Again my money.”I have no other income like others then the payments I get from CalPers.”We the 2000 retirees are all effected by the greed and improper management is past and current city staff. Their lack of foresight should be payed for by the whole city and not by just a few.The Franklin-Templeton mess was was for a fire house, city park, command center upgrades and roads and sewers. All services used by all citizens. They need to stand up and pay their share.

–In a subsequent message, “M” added:
“The effect of messing with PERS  retirement will create a terrible hardship on my family. Terrible.
“It’s too bad you can’t sue past greedy people for malpractice. … Two thousand retired city employee have suffered enough.”


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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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