Looting the Treasury

Simply examining current government employee benefits one could easily surmise that government exists not to serve the public but to pay its employees. As it stands, there is nothing in our future that will alleviate the growing taxpayer burden of millions of overpaid and under-worked government employees. Without compromises and reductions from the unions they belong to, we are headed for a failure of epic proportions, and there seems to be no way out. Here are, for example, just some of the benefits City of Santa Barbara employees receive:

Sick, Personal, Bereavement Leave

Employees accrue sick leave at the rate of 3.7 hours for each full pay period of service with a maximum accumulation of two thousand and eighty (2,080) hours. Said sick leave accrual shall begin effective the first day of employment. An employee may use up to six days (48 hours) of available accrued sick leave per calendar year to attend to an illness of a child, parent, registered domestic partner, or spouse of the employee.

Employees shall be entitled to four (4) days personal leave each fiscal year. In addition, the bereavement leave policy shall be up to five (5) days leave with pay and shall include the following immediate family members: mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, child, grandparents by blood or marriage, grandchildren by blood or marriage, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, person standing in loco parentis (in place of the parents), and step family members. In addition to the immediate family members listed herein, an employee shall be eligible for up to five (5) days bereavement leave with pay for his/her domestic partner and the domestic partner’s immediate family, as defined above.

Legal Holidays & Other Days Off

The following days shall be observed as legal holidays by all employees: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

When a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday the preceding Friday or following Monday respectively shall be observed as a legal holiday. Whenever a holiday occurs on an employee's regularly scheduled day off, the employee is entitled to an additional day off. When an employee is required to work on a day that is being observed as a legal holiday, the employee shall receive time and one half for the hours worked on that day. The employee will also be entitled to an additional day off.

Medical, Dental, Vision Insurance

The City will pay up to a maximum per employee per month as follows: (as of January 1, 2008) $890.01 ($10,680.12 per year) $82.66 ($991.92 per year) for Dental Insurance, and $10.21 ($122.52 per year) for Vision Insurance. The City shall allow same sex and opposite sex domestic partners dependent coverage under the medical, dental, and vision plans.

While none of the above mentioned benefits seem particularly onerous individually, when added on to vacation pay, base pay and retirement benefits, collectively they add up to a growing and unsustainable burden on taxpayers.

In order to redress this imbalance, here are a few things I recommend during this economic downturn: Require government employees to pay for at least half their medical insurance. Instead of furloughs, reduce vacation time. Two weeks, three max, of paid vacation is plenty. The thought of allowing someone to take 28 days a year (which translates to nearly a month and a half) is disrespectful to the source of their funding (U.S. taxpayers). Eliminate personal days. “Personal days” should count as vacation because that’s really what they are, a vacation from work. If a holiday lands on a weekend, employees do not receive time off or holiday pay if they work M-F. The fact that government workers get credited a holiday because one randomly lands on a weekend is a shocker. If market conditions require the private sector to contract, the government should be required to contract at the same rate. If the State GDP shrinks by 10 percent, so should the budget.

I may only be 27 years old but I am smart enough to realize irresponsible baby boomers have bequeathed an America saddled with debt, payable by my generation and those that follow. It’s not too late to right the good ship America, but she’s taking on water, fast.