Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday Morning Emerald City News Roundup

Legislative ethics and public employee double dipping are the hot topics of the day

There are a couple of quite interesting items available through the northern Utah print media today, both of which deal with fixing the corruption in Utah government:

First, the Standard-Examiner carries a top notch editorial, urging Utah voters to sign the petition for a "2010 ballot initiative that will do what the Utah Legislature has failed to do for so long — enact ethics reform with teeth."

Among the proponents of this pending voter initiative measure is the Fair Boundaries Coalition, which is promoting the establishment of a non-partisan committee which would oversee the redistricting process to follow the decennial census in 2010. The redistricting element is a matter which has of course been earlier discussed here at Weber County Forum.

With Kim Burningham and David Irvine leading the charge, it's immediately clear that this citizen initiative drive won't be an amateur act. We wholeheartedly agree with the Std-Ex that "it’s time voters got the chance to impose strong ethics regulations on lawmakers via the initiative process."

Keep your eyes on WCF. We'll be closely monitoring this story, and will provide information on how to sign the initiative petition as this matter progresses.

Secondly, the Salt lake Tribune carries a story on a topic that's also near and dear to out WCF hearts, public employee double dipping. Here's the gist, from this morning's Cathy McKittrick story:
The nearly $3 billion projected shortfall in the state's public employee retirement fund has city, county and state officials scrambling to find where to cut costs and shore up the pension plan that covers 156,000 current and retired workers.
Some lawmakers are eyeing double-dippers as a great place to start -- referring to those employees who have retired, are collecting a pension and have come back to work for the same or a different state agency.
"The biggest problem with double-dipping is that we're required by state law to pay them their 401k in the same amount" as had previously been contributed to the pension fund, said Sen. Daniel Liljenquist, D-Bountiful, who co-chairs the Legislature's Interim Retirement Committee.
That mandate is now costing the state somewhere between $10 million and $17 million annually, Liljenquist added.
"Where do you reach the point to cut off a rich benefit like that?" he asked. "To my knowledge, no other state does that. It's very lucrative and it makes sense to tie that down."
Placing restrictions on public employees who retire and rejoin the government work force without continuing contributions to the pension fund is one option being explored to address the retirement shortfall.
While it's probably true that the legislature can't do much about existing 401(k) plans which are already vested (the same may be true with regard to vested pension benefits) , we're hoping that the legislature will, at the very least, put new safeguards in place to prevent this problem from arising in the future.

In closing, we'll adopt the savvy remark from one SLTrib reader in the article comments section:
I strongly disagree with the concept of double or triple dipping. As far as I'm concerned the folks who do this are abusing the system and its wrong. If a person is going to retire from government employment, fine...retire. Thank you very much for your service. But as stated by other readers, its not right that a person be allowed to retire from a state position just to come back 6 months later and get rehired in the position he or she just retired from. That makes no sense. The legislature needs to fix this...now!
That's it for now, gentle readers. Who will be first to comment?


greed said...

It's interesting how the League of Cities and Towns are now crying about the pension contributions while pointing fingers at the double dippers.

In Ogden the only eligible employees who can double dip are the loyal ones who the Mayor allows this to happen ie: Fire Chief, Police Chief, Police lieutenants, Fire Marshal.

So now they want to penalize the other employees pension fund by increasing contribution rates, and cutting benfefits to those who are already opposed to the double dipping, creating no advancemant opportunities, rewarding the faithful followers.

The cities and entities who practice the favortism are the ones who should be penalized for rewarding the few who are participating in the double dipping. There is no cost savings to the City to allow a Police Shief to retire and re hire at the same rate of pay and benefits.

The only advantage that the city has is the experience of that person, and knowledge that the person is a faithful follower of the administrations who allow it to happen.

It just does'nt pencil out for financially for the city, and it screws the other employees looking for advancement in the departments.

Curmudgeon said...

SL Trib has a lead editorial up on the pension double-dipping matter. Claims Utah's retirement laws in re: double dipping are the most generous in the nation.

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