Numerous American states and municipalities are facing severe budget constraints. In all cases it’s the result of fiscal mismanagement, with politicians consistently spending more money that they take in. But in many cases decisions made in the past are now coming back to bite them, with costs spiraling completely out of control.
In many municipalities the cost of public employee pensions is one of the largest fiscal issues facing them. Public employee salaries are already high in many localities, particularly among first responders and other who work overtime. A recent example of that was a Los Angeles firefighter who was paid $360,000 in overtime last year. One firefighter billed an incredible 5,616 hours of overtime. That works out to 15.4 hours of overtime per calendar day, or 21.5 hours per weekday.
That’s just one employee. Multiply that by the hundreds, if not thousands, of public employees who make six figures of overtime and you can quickly see why so many localities are in fiscal crisis. Then figure that pension figures are based on the highest-paid years of work and you can understand that many public employees who figure out how to game the overtime system end up making out like bandits.
Some may try to argue that first responders do arduous, dangerous work and should be rewarded for that, but police and fire work isn’t anywhere near the top of the list of the most dangerous jobs. What their high pay reflects is the efforts of police and firefighter unions that have tried to put governments over a barrel, and governments that have been only too willing to acquiesce.
Taxpayers end up suffering as a result, with exorbitantly high pension costs spiraling out of control Many municipalities have already had to declare bankruptcy as a result, as they’re unable to afford those pension obligations. Public employees who expect their pensions to be paid had better hope that their governments are in sound financial shape, as otherwise the security of their pensions may be in doubt.