Finally, a Realist in the Public Sector

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but an interesting and healthy debate is taking place in the pages of the Yuba City Appeal Democrat these days. It’s a debate that many more Californians should be having.

The fracas began with an editorial from the Appeal Democrat which took public employee unions and Democratic legislators to task for attempting to prevent California cities from declaring bankruptcy. (Doing so would put public employees pensions and benefits in jeopardy but, as the editorial pointed out, these generous benefits are one of the main reasons cities find themselves in fiscal trouble.)

It didn’t take long following the publication of the editorial for Professionals Engineers in California Government (PECG) to weigh in with their tired campaign slogan suggesting public employees don’t get paid enough for years of service or when they retire. (We beg to differ, but their sizable campaign contributions evidently speak louder than our facts.)

Just when you’d expect a riposte from the private sector, Chuck Miller, a retired public employee and past president of PECG, sharpened his pencil and filed his own op-ed taking PECG and current president Mark Sheahan to task.

To quote Mr. Miller: “The Sept. 23 A-D editorial Sheahan rebutted was correct in criticizing public employee unions and elected officials for their lack of concern and prudent management of the taxpayers’ money.”

Bravo, Mr. Miller! Finally, a representative of the public employee sector who is willing to stand up and tell it like it is. The fact is that California’s public employees get some of the richest pension benefits in the world AND they get even more generous health benefits, making those pension dollars stretch even further in retirement.

In his editorial, Chuck Miller admits that he is doing quite alright, thank you, with his Caltrans pension. However, he also realizes that the system has run amok and the strains on that system threaten his future retirement benefits.

There are many fine people that work at PECG and other public unions, but I don’t think it serves them or the public to run the system into the ground. Like Mr. Miller, they should realize that the pension system is in desperate need of reform.

Tom Blackburn
Blackburn Consulting
President, ACEC Califronia

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