Pensions from the Top

This paragraph from a weekend PolitFact points to the really disturbing part of news about $100,000-plus pension payments:

The Wisconsin report didn’t compare starting retirement salaries. It simply catalogued the elements each state used to calculate the amount. To do the calculation, you take a worker’s final average salary (usually the average of the last three, four or five years of employment), multiply that by the number of years of service, and multiply that by a percentage that varies widely.

In that light, the thing that ought to really bother taxpayers isn’t so much the huge pensions (although they are rightly eye-catching), but the path that some people take to them. Take this guy, for instance:

Former House Speaker Matty Smith retired in 1993 with a $73,000 pension that reflected his 15 years as a legislator and his much higher-paying stint as state court administrator before he — and then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fay — were forced to resign amid a scandal over a high-level cover-up of the theft of court money. …
Smith’s pension is based on his 15 years as a part-time legislator, his 5 1/2 years as Supreme Court administrator, his 4 1/2 years as a Providence schoolteacher in the 1960s, another 4 1/2 years of credit — he was allowed to buy at a one-time cost of $432 — for his years as an archivist and special lecturer in history at Providence College, and 6 months in the Army.
With 3-percent compounded annual increases, Smith’s pension has grown to $100,078.56.

There’s so much that’s clearly wrong with this scenario that it feels redundant to list it all, but the largest part is basing a pension on a high-end political patronage job and many years as a part-time legislator. That alone creates incentive for corruption, because securing that golden retirement depends upon maintaining a political position for a long time and being in sufficient good graces with public administrators empowered to grant high-salary jobs to cash in those years of “public service.”

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John
John
10 years ago

Steven Costantino? Joseph Montelbano?

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

Maybe cuts in social services to CHILDREN could be alleviated if these F88KIN PIGS would give up some of their exorbitant salaries,COLAS and raises.
A $30,000 raise for that hack Anzeveno when he’s makibg $137K already?
A $ 60,000 job for that punk Asen?
A $100,000 salary for Jerzyk when he is already a full time attorney?
How many hours can he put in for the city to justify that?
Not to mention what’s printed above.
I always hear about firemen,but they provide a lifesaving service.
What the f**k do these hacks provide except more sewage for Fields Point?

David S
David S
10 years ago

And despite the obvious abuse of the pension system that you have highlighted, your bulls-eye will remain squarely on the backs of teachers, cops, firefighters, clerks and janitors. Because they are members of ( the worst thing in the world).

COLRJ
COLRJ
10 years ago

Without having to change the current formula, could (forgetting the issue of the will to do so) the GA put a cap rule that states a state pension equals the smaller of (1) the formula-based pension calculation or (2)the Governor’s current salary?

Aldo
Aldo
10 years ago

It is interesting to note that there was a post on the Projo blog that Supreme Court Justice Goldberg was the Judge that allowed Smith to plead to a misdemeanor vice felony.
That said, he was then eligible to collect.
Perhaps someone should check into this…
And her husband then became a State House Lobbyist…

John
John
10 years ago

What’s to check. That SOP in our little state.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

I found this interesting: tax.com: The Tax Daily for the Citizen Taxpayer * About Us * Articles * All Blog Posts * Info Center * Financial Tools * IRS Publications, Forms & Instructions * Life Events * Other Sites LexisNexis Tax Law Center Tax Gifts: Market Place Lorman Education Really Bad Reporting in Wisconsin: Who ‘Contributes’ to Public Workers’ Pensions? David Cay Johnston | Feb. 24, 2011 12:16 PM EST When it comes to improving public understanding of tax policy, nothing has been more troubling than the deeply flawed coverage of the Wisconsin state employees’ fight over collective bargaining. Economic nonsense is being reported as fact in most of the news reports on the Wisconsin dispute, the product of a breakdown of skepticism among journalists multiplied by their lack of understanding of basic economic principles. Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans. Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not. Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers. How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services. Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system (or as the argument goes, “pay their fair share” of retirement costs… Read more »

BobN
BobN
10 years ago

Phil has posted one of the most dishonest pieces of sophist wordplay ever to disgrace these pages.
IF if could be proved that government employees take below-market pay in exchange for their pensions and OPEB, there might be an argument. But that deferred pay would also have to be sufficient to fully fund those plans.
There are two nefarious forces at work here: 1. salary increases, “longevity” payments and the banking of overly generous sick and personal days have put these employees above comparable private-sector workers in pay; and 2. the overly generous retirement plans were fiscally unsound from the start; i.e., a huge Ponzi scheme.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

There are Providence firemen out on fake disability making $175K a year-tax free. Plus 6% compounded COLA’s.
In a 15 years they (or their wife if they die) will be making $500,000. In 30 years, not impossible in an era of centenarians-a cool million a year.
Tax free.
Anybody who thinks this is sustainable must be as dumb as a progressive.

Andrew
Editor
10 years ago

Mr. Johnston asserts a right of an “employer” — in this case, the government — to make irrevocable claims on the property of the citzenry indefintely into the future. Under his theory, the government has the right to take a portion of what you thought was your income from you forever, because it was never your income anyway, because the government owns a portion of everything of value at the moment it comes into existence, without needing any decision by the current representatives of the people to be made to appropriate their property.
Fortunately, the system of government that we are lucky enough to live under threw off absolutist notions like the government owning a permanent chunk of the lives of its citizens over three centuries ago. Unfortunately, some people would like to take us back.
But what is especially laughable in Mr. Johnston’s article is his telling us that extra taxpayer contributions to a pension are just deferred salary — when he is arguing for squeezing money out of the taxpayers, that is. When he is making his comparison of government to non-goverment pay scales, on the other hand, consideration of that amount as part of the total salary suddenly vanishes. Oooops.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

But what is especially laughable in Mr. Johnston’s article is his telling us that extra taxpayer contributions to a pension are just deferred salary — when he is arguing for squeezing money out of the taxpayers, that is.
Is GE being “squeezed”?

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

“They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.”
Let’s have some honesty. Call a pay cut just that and credit those who are taking them. The problem is that honesty does not permit the “reformers” to frame things in terms of us against them. Private versus public. Being squeezed instead of receiving generous extras. Whose interests are being served by turning neighbor against neighbor, by dividing struggling workers into sectors and pointing a finger at those who work for government as the culprits. Who gains? Not the people such as a recent poster who lamented the loss of music programs in their school district. Not the people who if things continue will have to wait longer for police and fire to arrive if called. As services get cut and workers take pay cuts no one will gain. If all this public worker bashing continues I don’t expect to read posts here or on like sites that are that different from the ones that have appeared before. Criticism of government ineptitude, cronyism, and corruption. Privatize everything. Things may get better if the top 1% of the population control more than the quarter of the nation’s income as they do now. Good luck to us ,the 99%.

Monique
Editor
10 years ago

I dunno, Phil; perhaps we can ask their patron, President Barack Obama.

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