Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Why there is a public pension crisis

Why are pensions for government workers so large that they threaten to bankrupt cities and states across the country? It is apparently because voters don't know about them. The Florida League of Cities commissioned a poll (PDF) (hat tip: Mish) about police and fireman pensions. From the executive summary of their findings:
When it comes to the pay and benefits of police and fire fighters, voters are generally unaware of the array of benefits currently afforded them. Initially and by a large margin most respondents felt these benefits are "about right" or "too low". Further, they have a general misperception as to how much police officers and fire fighters are paid, with nearly 70% believing the average salary is $60,000 per year or less and 90% believing it is $70,000 per year or less.

We asked an extended series of questions identifying the assortment of pay and benefits currently provided to most police and fire fighters. Almost without exception, voters feel that most of these benefits are too generous. For example, 63% felt retirement benefits should be consistent with other government employees, 66% opposed 20 years and out, and 73% felt that adding overtime to base calculations was unfair. Further, 70% oppose DROP, 71% felt $70,000 per year average salary was too high, and a whopping 84% felt they should not make the same when they retire as when they are working!
Also interesting is that most voters do not understand that they are paying for public employee pensions with their tax dollars:
Oddly, more than 60% stated that increasing benefits could bankrupt local government yet 77% do not equate these pension benefits to taxes and instead correlate higher taxes to "other spending and other government programs".

And while voters do not necessarily connect benefits to taxes, a strong majority (74%) of respondents still wanted lawmakers to look at ways to "rein in the growth of benefits for police and fire fighters" with 44% feeling very strongly about that.

We can conclude, based on these findings, that the public is largely ignorant or agnostic to benefit packages and salaries currently available to police and fire fighters. However, once they are informed about these benefits, they believe they are excessive and have problems with several of them specifically. And while they don't tie these benefits directly to higher taxes, they do want to see government leaders to take action to begin reigning in this type of spending and they want that by a strong margin [All emph. added]
This is yet another example of the MSM failing to inform the voters on the key issues of the day.

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