Today’s Sacramento Bee featured a viewpoint column entitled “Pension ‘Reformers’ distort facts on benefits.” The column was written by Martha Penry, “a special education teacher’s assistant in the Twin Rivers school district.” Not disclosed in the article was the fact that Ms. Penry is also a high ranking public employee union official, as evidenced by her membership on the CSEA Board of Directors.
In her column Ms. Penry accuses “pension busters” of overstating the cost of pensions and the amount of the average pension. She claims that “three quarters of CalPERS retirees collect yearly pensions of $36,000 or less.” What Ms. Penry does not do, however, is acknowledge that the average she is referring to includes retirees who didn’t work full time, or who didn’t work much more than five years (the minimum vesting period for a pension), or who retired decades ago when pay rates and pension formulas were still fairly reasonable.
A more honest assessment of the average pension has to examine rates for people who are retiring now, under today’s pay scales and pension formulas, who have worked their full careers in government service. Here is the most recent information, drawn directly from the annual reports of Cal STRS and CalPERS: