Taxpayers Still Funding Outrageous Pension Plans
As a concerned taxpayer and resident (of the private sector variety, or as the City fondly thinks of us, their ATM), I attended the public hearings on DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) in Philadelphia City Council Chambers on Wednesday, June 8th. This program, initially established in 1999 as a benefit to police and firemen, was later extended to all City employees. This essentially gives the Philadelphia taxpayer two pension plans to fund. Philadelphia City Council, seeing a gravy train in the making, eagerly jumped on board. How many citizens in the private sector can make $600,000 over 10 years (outgoing City Council President Anna Verna) in their 401K plan?
In attendance were policemen and firemen, the heads of their unions and a very large group of City workers. Not nearly as large as in Wisconsin, but the sense of entitlement on the part of the City employees was the same. I learned from a fireman sitting next to me that Supervisors have a union — No. 47, which represents No. 33 — a union for blue collar workers. Surprised to find that supervisors needed a union, my first thought was: “Look at all I missed while I’m out working every day.” My second thought was “what a total waste of my day off, which I took specifically to attend this hearing.” On the subject of “public” hearings, I see no reason why these can’t be scheduled at such a time so that Philadelphians who cannot take a day off can attend — sort of like night court for City Council.
The long discussed and awaited public hearing on DROP was a sham. City Council and the public employees have their own mutual admiration society, but their regard does not extend to the taxpayers in the City who have to fund them. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to realize that the term “worker” excludes all of those who earn money and are not on the City payroll. There was testimony about what the City could afford and I kept thinking, the City? It is the taxpayer, what’s left of them, who pay the bills and it is the taxpayers who cannot afford this.
Testimony from proponents (City employee unions) for retention and/or amendment of the double dip pension program was greeted with rowdy applause. I heard the head of the Supervisor’s Union emphatically state that DROP is not paid by the taxpayer. I heard City employees shouting, “You don’t pay our salaries.” We don’t? At this point, I started to get a sinking feeling and some book and movie references started to run through my mind:
From Atlas Shrugged: “What would Atlas do? He’d shrug.”
Murray the accountant in Dave: “Get out while you can.”
Not one resident who spoke against this program as a matter of affordability and fiscal responsibility was given the slightest courtesy of polite acknowledgement or applause, and the silence most assuredly displays the contempt of these special interests for the ordinary citizen who works each day for the “privilege” of paying their salaries. Taxpayers do not have a lobby or champion among City Council members who have a vested interest in this program – new members are not permitted to enroll, but those currently serving – ka-ching! I found it ironic that Ms. Verna ($600,000) and Ms. Tasco ($485,000), the biggest winners in the DROP pot of gold, alternated as Chair of the hearing.
So the fix is in and the taxpayer, once again, is left out of the equation. I am more certain than ever that there will be another 4-10% real estate tax increase to complement the “temporary” property tax increase enacted in 2010. The Mayor’s coveted tax on sugary drinks is probably more uncertain, as there is another special interest group to pander to; and plunder of the taxpayer continues as a way of life here in Philadelphia.
Animal Farm: Some animals are more equal than others.