Retired eye surgeon Joseph Robertson, who served as head of the Oregon Health & Science University, is getting quite a nice pension for his tenure at a public university. Let the New York Times tell you what it is:
It is $76,111.
That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.
Here is another Oregon pensioner:
[T]he pension for Mike Bellotti, the University of Oregon’s head football coach from 1995 to 2008, includes not just his salary but also money from licensing deals and endorsements that the Ducks’ athletic program generated. Mr. Bellotti’s pension is more than $46,000 a month.
Oregon isn't the only state that is generous with pensions. New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut are similarly lavish. These states are finding themselves in a pinch, as more government workers retire. More than 2,000 have pensions of more than $100,000 a year.
Pensions for public workers should be realistic. One reason they often aren't, I submit, is that the tab will be picked up by that amorphous group known as taxpayers. And so what happens when the state is strapped in meeting the costs of these pensions? This is what happens:
Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System has told cities, counties, school districts and other local entities to contribute more to keep the system afloat. They can neither negotiate nor raise local taxes fast enough to keep up. As a result, pensions are crowding out other spending. Essential services are slashed.
“You get to the point where you can no longer do more with less — you just have to do less with less,” said Nathan Cherpeski, the manager of Klamath Falls, a city of about 21,000 in south-central Oregon.
Klamath Falls’s most recent biennial bill from the pension system, known as PERS, was $600,000 more than the one before. PERS has warned that the bills will keep rising. Mr. Cherpeski has had to cut back on repairing streets and bridges.
Even as the American economy is humming, many states and cities are still hurting from the 2008 financial meltdown. The crash hammered their pension funds and tax revenues, but didn’t reduce the amounts they owe retirees.
Actually, even partially blaming the 2008 financial crisis is an outrageous deflection of deserved blame. We should assign responsibility to the officials who created and sustained the formulae for these these exorbitant pensions.
We should be outraged that citizens who don't earn nearly as much as the former public employees must face increased taxes to support the system. .
So here's a word I did not see in the story: union or unions.
No doubt, public sector unions have played a role in sustaining the formula by which pensions are calculated. And why not be lavish? After all, it's just the taxpayers who must cough up the money.