If someone was to ask me to take a guess on how much a firefighter or police officer makes, I would say somewhere in the range of $55,000 to $75,000 + benefits and probably a pension. After all, firefighters and police officers have generally been painted as blue collar, middle-class workers. Also as government employees, I believed they made a respectable wage but not excessive, but would be compensated with better benefits and retirement options.
But actually, in California, many of them make well over $100,000, to the tune of $150,000 to even as high as $400,000! That’s more money than even many doctors and lawyers make. Thanks to a website called Transparent California, which lists the salaries, benefits and pensions of most government employees by name, those of us in California can now see just how much and how many government workers are being crazy overpaid. Not to single out firefighters and police officers but it seems they are often the worst offenders of abusing overtime, where they often make overtime pay that is 50-100% of their base salary. In the image I have for this post of a Los Angeles firefighter’s salary, his base salary is only $87,000 but he made $286,000 in overtime pay, that’s 3x his base salary, not to mention $30,000 is “other pay” for a whopping $400,000 in compensation, not including benefits or his retirement pension!
Check out the website here at TransparentCalifornia.com. You can search the salary, benefits and pension of almost any California government worker. Reading their blog was an eye opener for me which highlights some of the worse offenders by name. This Forbes article titled “Hundreds of California Government Employees are Paid over $400,000 a Year” also sums up nicely why we need a website like Transparent California.
Imagine trying to run a business without knowing how much it cost you to provide health insurance or retirement benefits…or how much each employee made.
For decades, this is what it’s been like for California taxpayers trying to rein in government compensation. But instead of going out of business like a private company, California governments have just raised taxes higher and higher. California residents now suffer the highest individual income tax rate in the country, one of the highest rates of sales tax and corporate income tax rates, and the second highest tax on gasoline. Behind all the increases, there’s a big contributing factor in common: the insatiable salary demands of government employees.
Now, however, that can change — thanks to the California Public Policy Center’s just-released website, TransparentCalifornia.com. Transparent California is the largest database of California government employee compensation that is searchable by name and job title. It includes over 2 million salary records and over 1 million pension records.
I have to say figuring how California has the highest state income tax in the country and one of the highest sales taxes not to mention how at one point in time we were almost on the verge of bankruptcy and then learning how overpaid many California government workers are is pretty upsetting to me. As a tax payer in a higher tax bracket, it does piss me off to think that a lot of my state taxes are being used to give cushy pensions (pensions of over a $1M in todays dollars) and excessive overtime pay that can double or even quadruple a government worker’s base salary. I barely even cared when I heard about the City of Bell scandal in California, but thinking about it now, I feel angry. My husbands says, so what are you going to do about it? Blog about it of course! And share this information with others so that hopefully it’ll keep excessive spending like this in check. An acquaintance who’s a police officer already said that changes are occurring with less overtime offered because of information like that available on Transparent California. Before, he said anyone could do a ton of OT if they wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate firefighters and police officers and sure sometimes overtime is necessary. Their jobs are very important and they put their lives on the line every day and should be adequately compensated, but not excessively so and not at the cost of possibly bankrupting California!
On a side note, this website is also somewhat financially voyeuristic since you can know to the penny what a friend or family member who is a California government employee makes. I have several friends who are city and county workers and I have to confess I’ve peeked at their salary. Ahhh don’t judge me please! Sometimes I was surprised how much they make (ahem firefighter and police officers) and sometimes I was surprised how little they make. Teachers are definitely still underpaid I feel for what they provide, but it turns out not all teachers!
So for those us who live in California, spread the word on excessive government spending that needs to be balanced and checked. Also, I’m curious was anyone else upset by the data and findings from the Transparent California website? Am I alone in being upset that my state taxes might be funding excessive salaries, overtime and pensions? Share with us in the comments below!