Back in July, experts said California only saw the "tip of the iceberg" after three of its cities were forced to declare bankruptcy. Though the budget is as large as a number of small countries, lawmakers in the state have made a habit of spending everything they have, and then some. With Governor Jerry Brown proposing to raise taxes even higher to bridge the gap, some are wondering how the state is spending its existing funds.
Though it is merely a fraction of the total budget, Brian Calle at the Orange County Register notes that for just 10 Hermosa Beach state employees, taxpayers are paying more than $1 million in bloated salaries, health, and retirement benefits. These are not highly-trained specialists, but what are sometimes referred to as "meter maids" -- the people who write tickets when a car is left unattended, collect meters from the machines, etc.
There are 10 parking enforcement employees for the 1.3-square-mile beach city southwest of downtown Los Angeles, and they pull down some disproportionate compensation, considering their job functions. In fact, the two highest-earning employees for fiscal year 2011-12 are estimated to have made more than $92,000 and $93,000, respectively, according to city documents provided by Patrick “Kit” Bobko, one of five council members...
There are four qualifications for being a city “community service officer,” Bobko told me: “You have to be able to drive a standard transmission; you have to able to handle large animals; you have to read and interpret statutes and regulations; and you have a high school diploma or equivalent.”
According to the city’s job description, these community service officers are supposed “to enforce meter and other regulations governing the parking of vehicles on streets and municipal parking lots; to enforce animal regulations; may drive city buses; collect meters and perform minor meter repairs; perform related work as required.”
While there is arguably a need for such a job, is it really worth the outrageous cost to California taxpayers? Calle continues:
Bobko also wrote in a memo that the retirement costs for these 10 employees “from [fiscal year 2011-12] through their retirement age at 62 was nearly $1.6 million, and the medical costs for these employees from this fiscal year to their retirement at age 62 would be $1,353,827.” Excluding salaries, the [retirement] contributions and medical costs for the 10 employees performing parking enforcement will cost, on average, nearly $300,000 apiece.” [All emphasis added]
There have been calls to partially automate and privatize the positions, but Hermosa Beach Police Chief Steve Johnson and Councilman Howard Fishman are seemingly opposed to eliminating any union jobs, whatever the cost to taxpayers.
Tara Finnigan, a spokeswoman for nearby Newport, commented: “[Newport] has seen a 24.4 percent increase in parking-meter revenues over last year, and salary savings of approximately $500,000 from outsourcing parking meter operations,” but Hermosa remains unconvinced.
Bobko simply explained: “When you outsource, you take away union jobs... [but] we can’t keep making promises with money we don’t have to people we are paying well above what the market would pay them.”
Mike Shedlock of Townhall wrote of the situation: "In these trying times, one might think that public union supporters would back off of ludicrous demands, at least a tiny bit."
A Townhall commenter added: "Where do I apply for that job? I went to law school, became a lawyer, and only make 1/2 that much. Viva la revolucion."