Californians for Retirement Security www.LetsTalkPensions.com
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Pension Truth Squad: Public Employees Are Doing Their Part
Firefighters, Police Officers, Teachers Stand Together to Defend Retirement Security
CARSON – As lawmakers examine public pensions and Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to release his new pension agenda, firefighters, law enforcement officers and others are fighting to preserve retirement security for California’s middle class. The Pension Truth Squad gathered outside a legislative hearing today to set the record straight about politically motivated attacks on public worker pensions.
“We have been part of the solution, while those with political agendas are unfairly portraying us as the problem,” said Rich Brandt, of the Long Beach Firefighters. “We are working people, supporting families, contributing to our local economies and, in many cases, putting our lives on the line to protect the public. We also willingly have made huge concessions at the bargaining table to help repair an economy wrecked by Wall Street.”
Meanwhile, several public employees invited to testify at a special legislative hearing in Carson planned to tell lawmakers that they welcome fair and thoughtful changes to assure California's public pension system stays strong. But they warned elected officials against forcing millions of working Californians into risky 401(k)-style retirement plans.
“As long as lawmakers focus on facts, rather than political hyperbole, we are confident they will find that public pensions are not the problem some would like the public to believe,” says Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security. “Employee pensions make up a small fraction of state spending, and a poorly crafted overhaul will cost taxpayers more in the long run.”
In Los Angeles County, CalPERS pension payments generated $3 billion in economic activity last year, according to a study by the pension fund. Meanwhile, state employees have agreed over the past two years to pay more toward their pensions and to other changes that have saved California $600 million in pension costs, according to CalPERS. Overall, California public employees’ contributions to their pensions have climbed from 5 percent to 7 to up to 11 percent. At the local level, at least 200 California cities, counties and local districts, firefighters, police and other public employees have agreed to increase pension contributions and lower public costs.
Dawn Bronsema, who worked as an elementary school secretary in Downey for three decades, said her pension income is hardly lavish. “I live modestly on a modest pension that I contributed to with every paycheck. I did the job asked of me, and am grateful for the small amount of retirement security I got in return. Please don’t take that away from me, or from others who may want to work in public service.”
The Pension Truth Squad tour has appeared in 10 California cities and is sponsored by Californians for Retirement Security, which represents 1.5 million public employees and retirees.
Speakers at the Pension Truth Squad Press Conference included: Rich Brandt, Long Beach Fire Department; Brian Moriguchi; President of the Professional Peace Officers Association and the Los Angeles County Organization of Police and Sheriffs; Rick Jordan, Retired Public School Teacher; Dawn Bronsema, Retired Elementary School Secretary, Downey; and Jim Spaulding, Retired City of Long Beach Employee.
Claims that public employees enjoy lavish retirements are untrue and ballot-box proposals to gut public pensions will not fix budgets
• The average public pension in California is $26,000 a year. California retired teachers, who do not collect Social Security, earn an average $3,300-a-month after an average 27 years in the classroom. The headline-grabbing, six-figure pensions amount to less than 2 percent of public pensions.
• Public employee pensions equal just 3 percent of California’s budget.
• Legislative Analyst’s Office analyses of several pending pension busting measures warn that they could do more harm than good and will likely cost taxpayers more in the long run.
Public employees have been willing participants in helping fix California’s budget woes
• State employees have agreed over the past two years to pay more toward their pensions and to other changes that have saved California $600 million, according to CalPERS. Overall, California public employees’ contributions to their pensions have climbed from 5 percent to 7 to up to 11 percent.
• At the local level, at least 200 California cities, counties and local districts, firefighters, police, and other public employees have agreed to increase employee pension contributions and lower public costs.
• Public Employees unequivocally support fair efforts to clamp down on fraud and abuse.
• Public employees have endured a sustained campaign attacking them at the same time they are strapped by furloughs, docked pay and pink slips. They dedicate their careers to serving the public for pay that pales in comparison to what they might earn in the private sector. They volunteer and contribute in their communities even after they retire.
Public retirement benefits boost our economy and create jobs
• Pension payments to retired public employees generated $26 billion of economic activity in California last year, CalPERS reports. Retirees across the state, in addition to being taxpayers and homeowners, spend the money they earned from years of service at local restaurants, doctors' offices, small businesses and more.
• A study commissioned by CalSTRS found that benefits paid to retired educators amount to an economic engine across California, especially in rural counties. The California State University, Sacramento, study concluded that the California economy gained $6.71 for every dollar invested in pensions by employers and taxpayers.
Claims that pensions are headed for Armageddon are flat wrong.
• California's major pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS reported their largest investment gains in years for the 2010-11 fiscal year. The CalPERS investment portfolio posted a 20.7 percent gain, its highest in 14 years. CalSTRS reported a 23.1 percent return, the highest in 25 years.
• The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the 100 largest public retirement systems grew in this year's first quarter by 10.2 percent from a year earlier, signaling the sixth consecutive quarter of year-on-year gains.
Out-of-state billionaires and right-wing extremists with Tea Party ties are driving this assault on California’s middle class
• Decisions concerning retirement security for California’s public employees should be made at the bargaining table when applicable. The answer is not allowing out-of-state billionaires to swoop in and change California’s constitution to force public workers into risky 401k retirement plans like those that have left private sector workers fearing for their families’ futures.
• Groups with links to the Tea Party and the corporate interests that caused the economic collapse plaguing California are behind efforts to scapegoat public employees in California and across the nation.
• Corporate CEOs and businesses are enjoying jaw-dropping profits as workers see little of the economic recovery. Northeastern University economists reported that corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in income since the fiscal recovery began in June 2009, while wages and salaries accounted for slightly more than 1 percent. Meanwhile, the median pay for chief executives at 200 of the nation's largest companies rose 23 percent last year, the New York Times reported.
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