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Get ready for the last days of the State of California

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POSTED November 16, 2009 12:53 a.m.

Get ready for the financial equivalent of Armageddon.

California has a whopping $181.5 billion in unfunded public employee retiree health and pension benefits. It is a ticking time bomb that has all the potential of eventually making the current state budget blood-letting look like the good old days.

Last week when the Public Employee Post Employment Benefits Commission released the first-ever report on the gravity of the unfunded state employee retirement benefits, the response from your favorite legislator was so loud you could hear a pin drop.

It’s the exact response you’d expect from 120 men and women who are essentially political narcissists that have done a Herculean job of driving California into the ground. On second thought, that isn’t fair. They are simply the latest self-serving politicians more interested in the politics of the left and the right instead of governing the state and forging a future while working so diligently to rob the Godden State of all its luster, wealth, and potential.

Hey, when you’re a Democrat or a Republican in Sacramento it’s all in a day’s work.

The Titanic – so to speak – is heading straight toward an iceberg. And just like the men who designed that ship, the politicians in Sacramento believe you can’t destroy California so they are doing nothing to change course.

It is a belief rooted deep in the fact they all believe everyone else is responsible for the mess and not them.

History won’t treat them nearly as well as their egos.

What they need to do now is take the first step toward preventing California from plunging to the bottom of the economic ocean and end up as a second-class Third Word economy.

The first move is to reduce retirement benefits for all future state employee hires.

At the same time Governor Schwarzenegger needs to not simply undertake layoffs but actually eliminate jobs. Cutting the state employment rolls by 20,000 employees will go a long way to reducing future deficits triggered by the $181.5 billion shortfall.

Obviously the job cuts could be done on a seniority basis as long as there are people qualified for the remaining positions that have more years of service.

Is it fair? Well, let’s put it this way: The private sector has been forced to do the same thing for years as revenue dried up.

You can hear the powerful state employee unions howling already. The retirement benefits make up for the difference in pay they accepted for working in the public sector.

Someone needs to give them a dose of reality. That may have been true at one point but when it comes to compensation, health benefits, job security, and retirement benefits state employees have it a heck of a lot better than the overwhelming majority of California taxpayers.

Yes, benefits have been promised those who are retired or are nearing it. We shouldn’t renege on that.

However, there should be no guarantee that once you are hired you have a job for life with the accompanying retirement benefits.

California right now doesn’t have the money to support the employees it has. Most of the money we spend to run the state is on manpower.

How will the state run with less people?

It’s time the state joined the rest of California.

Manteca has already rethought the way it is doing business. That is how they can do it with 50 to 60 less people thanks to early retirements, leaving positions vacant and unfortunately 10 layoffs of police officers. City leadership is still looking at ways to rethink providing and delivering services as the budget crunch is far from over. Ideally it will mean as people retire the city will find ways to get the job done without filling positions.

The state hasn’t gone through such an exercise ever. Oh, there has been a lot of hot air but the bureaucracy still multiplies like rabbits in mating season. The legislature has got to stop passing new laws that pile on laws that do essentially the same thing. It is time to simplify the bureaucracy.

What we can do as voters is simple. It is painfully obvious that not one man or woman in Sacramento is addressing what really ails the state’s long-range economic health by taking on the powerful state employee unions. It is time to just say no to incumbents – whether you like them or not.

There needs to be a clear message sent to Sacramento. We can no longer hold our future – and that of our grandchildren’s children – hostage to a culture that has built a bureaucracy that threatens to destroy California.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail

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