The Marin Post

The Voice of the Community

Blog Post


New data released on Marin pension payouts

First, I want to express my profound thanks once again toRobert Fellner of Transparent California for providing us with the valuable information needed to assess the financial health of our government agencies. It's almost unimaginable to think back to those times, not so long ago, when ferreting out this vital information was time consuming and often impossible. Please remember to support the work of Transparent California through your tax deductible donations.

One key point not included in the recent Marin IJ article,New Data Released on Marin Pension Payouts, is the obvious fact that high salaries result in high - and often higher - pensions. Mark Riesenfeld is a prime example. Riesenfeld retired in 2005 at a final pay of $204,000. Thirteen years later he was receiving $280,000 plus $8,000 in healthcare benefits. That amount will continue to rise annually due to the compounded cost of living increases.


The Supervisors - and most elected officials in Marin - are fond of saying that they must pay higher salaries in order "to attract the best and the brightest". They also say that higher pay is required because the cost of living in Marin is high. Part of the reason for the latter might be the high taxes necessitated by unfunded pension debt, but that's another story.

Since higher salaries are deemed 'necessary', it is obvious that the only way to control ever-mounting unfunded pension liabilities is through pension reform measures. I keep going back to this quote from the Appeals Court's 2016 decision in MAPE versus MCERA: "As will be shown, while a public employee does have a “vested right” to a pension, that right is only to a “reasonable” pension—not an immutable entitlement to the most optimal formula of calculating the pension."

Yet, as of now, there has been no effort on the part of the Marin County Supervisors to support the pension cases before the California Supreme Court. There has been no public discussion on controlling pensions so that future generations aren't continuing to pay for our past and present retirees.

Increased taxes aren't the answer, but they are now the norm.

I'll end with another favorite quote, this one from Winston S. Churchill:

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.