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The pension predicament

June 07, 2008

Re "Benefits for retirees squeezing the state," June 2

George Skelton's column about public employee pensions conflates two issues, public employee pensions and healthcare for public employee retirees. Contrary to the claims of Keith Richman, there is no crisis in the funding of public employee pension obligations.

Many California public employee pension funds are 100% funded or close to 100% funded. The state pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS) are among the strongest in the world. In fact, 75 cents of every dollar paid out in pensions to state workers comes from the interest on CalPERS investments. Of the remaining 25 cents, more than half comes from employee contributions. Less than 12 cents on the dollar comes from the taxpayers.

There is a problem with the funding of retiree healthcare. In the past, these benefits have been paid for out of current revenues rather than having been prefunded like pensions. That error is being corrected and in the future, taxpayer obligations for this expense should be reduced substantially.

The problem that the public should be outraged about is not public pensions, but the disappearance of retirement security for workers in the private sector.

Mark H. Shapiro

Fullerton

Kudos to Gerald Parsky, former chairman of the UC Board of Regents, for recognizing the trade-off in enhanced benefits in lieu of higher salaries. Many public employees have dedicated over 30 years of their careers, at reduced salaries, to serving the public. Many have advanced degrees. They chose public service over the plush offices and higher salaries in corporate America.

State retirement benefits, partly funded by state employees, are a small price to pay for their knowledge and experience.

David Malkin

Rowland Heights

The writer is a retired employee of the state of California.

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