At the end of the year many of us reflect on our blessings. This story about property taxes being increased by 50% to pay pensions in Scranton, Pennsylvania reminds us how fortunate we are to be protected by Proposition 13. The following commentary appeared in the Washington Times on December 21, 2014:
For outrageous government scam of the year, it’s hard to compete with the news of the supersized public-employee pensions in California. If you haven’t already heard: in 2013, an assistant fire chief in Southern California collected a $983,319 pension last year. A police captain in Los Angeles received nearly $753,861. Talk about a golden parachute. The report on Golden State government pensions contains a list that runs pages and pages of hundreds of “public servants” who have hit the pension jackpot with annual pensions of a half-million a year. It’s like they’re playing the game “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” With taxpayer money.
By some estimates, the unfunded pension liabilities in California have eclipsed $750 billion, which means that in a few years, residents will be paying their already-highest in the nation income and sales taxes not for roads, bridges, schools and public safety but for retired employees living like Daddy Warbucks.
This same scandal — only on a slightly smaller scale — is happening in most states. The crisis dates back 20 to 30 years ago when public-employee unions negotiated fat pension deals with state and local politicians that were like ticking time bombs in municipal budgets. The fat and happy politicians who bought union votes didn’t care much. They’d be long gone when these grenades detonated and the fiscal carnage began.
Americans know instinctively that this is no way to run a city or state, and that the enormous pensions border on larceny from public treasuries. This will eventually cause rip-roaring problems for state and local budgets. Now we have a story from middle America of what happens when the crisis hits a financial boiling point. Look no further than Scranton, Pennsylvania.