The crisis that public pensions face over funding shortfalls is becoming increasingly important in the media. Add to that some concerns about the generous benefits that some public retirees receive. As state after state struggles with new controls on benefits and takes steps to address plan shortfalls, the issues become mired in more and more complexity.
There is one issue in the pension storm that is easy to understand; that is the issue of “pension spiking,” or an employee taking sometimes illegal steps to inflate the final salary on which their pension is based. California State Controller John Chiang has gone so far as to call spiking a “form of public theft.”
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland defines pension spiking as:
The practice of inflating employees’ salaries to increase their benefit base. This can be accomplished through a last-day “promotion,” where the employee receives a new title and a salary far above what he earned in the previous 364 days, or where an employee nearing retirement receives the lion’s share of available overtime.
Here is a particularly crazy example of spiking from Bloomberg. In this case the employee has included every conceivable form of compensation into their salary total for their pension calculation:
Robb Quincey made $460,000 last year as city manager of Upland, California, a middle-class suburb east of Los Angeles at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. His duties included overseeing 325 employees, a police department with 25 cars, four fire stations and a library for the community of 76,000.