Firefighter Donn Thompson of Los Angeles earned some $300,000 in overtime in 2017, aside from his $92,000 salary. If that sounds like a lot of money in overtime, it is. In fact, as Transparent California reports, Thompson has pulled down $1 million in overtime since 2013. Eric Boehm of Reason.com explains:
Here's how the math breaks down. Thompson, like all firefighters in Los Angeles, works 2,912 hours every year. With a base salary of $92,000, that comes to an hourly rate of $31.60. That means Thompson would earn overtime pay at a rate of $47.40 per hour—that's one and a half times the base rate. But earning $302,000 at a rate of $47.40 per hour would require working more than 6,370 hours. Add that to the 2,912 hours he worked as a salaried employee, and you get more than 9,280 hours worked, despite the fact that there are only 8,760 hours in a year.
Thompson has a long history of working the system. From 1993 to 1995, Thompson made well over $200,000 in overtime; in 2008, he grabbed another $173,335 in overtime.
California excluded overtime from pension calculations only in 2012; that means that Thompson’s retirement pay will still be based on his overtime. As The Los Angeles Times reported in 2014:
A legal way to increase pensions by boosting the final pay of retiring state and local government workers could drive up public employee pension costs in California by as much as $796 million over the next 20 years, the state controller said Tuesday. … Two years ago the Legislature and governor overhauled public pension benefits for newly hired workers, but many critics called the legislation too little and too late.
Public employee unions have been bankrupting localities across the country. California’s unfunded pension liabilities are staggering:
CalPERS has unfunded liabilities — benefits promised compared with anticipated funding — of $136 billion, Nation says. For CalSTRS, the projected red ink is $87 billion. That's based on 2016 data, the latest available. If you total up the unfunded liabilities of all state and local public pension systems in California, the projected debt comes to around $333 billion, Nation says. But that's a conservative figure based on official reports. It could be up over $1 trillion.
That’s nearly $26,000 per household in the state.
This is what happens when a state is governed by unions, as California is: California unions elect public officials, who then sign rich contracts with the unions, who then elect public officials. The cycle creates debt and serious safety problems as well — if public employee unions strike, that’s a disaster area. We can love our firefighters, but these deals are destroying localities.