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Will Howard Wayne’s pension be five or six digits?

October 20, 2010 - 5:10 pm

A little more than a week ago, the Union-Tribune‘s Tom Blair wrote about political volleying over pensions between Howard Wayne and Lorie Zapf in the District 6 race for City Council:

Both have talked of solving the city’s pension crisis, but Wayne offered to make the first move. If elected, he said, he’ll refuse his city pension. When Wayne challenged her to do the same, Zapf didn’t respond. But her campaign manager, Matthew Donnellan, strikes back: Lori has no intention of accepting a city pension, he says.

Can we get a lower offer? How about a pay cut commensurate with the unemployment rate, as Stephen Whitburn recently promised to sweeten his candidacy for the county board of supervisors? How about the candidate reject salaries altogether and work for free? Or better than that, how about they actually pay us?

Wouldn’t it be worth sending Meg Whitman to the governor’s mansion if she’d promised to donate $1 billion to the general fund? (That would leave her with $400 million to eke by.)

Enough! These offers are pretty close to electoral bribery.  And in Wayne’s case, giving up a city pension really isn’t such a huge deal considering he’s set to collect a nice sized state pension for his work as a deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice. How big is his state pension? Donnellan told Blair it was six figures. We asked Wayne if he could calculate it for us or just give us an estimate. This was his response:

It can’t be calculated without making some decisions my wife and I have not made. Whatever it would be, it would be substantially less than what a deputy city attorney with comparable service would receive.

So,  we decided to come up with our own estimate. To calculate his pension, you’ve gotta know three things things:

1. Number of years he worked for the state. Wayne’s online biography says 30 years.

2. Highest year’s salary. The Sacramento Bee’s database of employee salaries has Wayne at $125, 724 per year.

3. Age. Wayne turns 62 on election day.

California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, which specializes in researching retired state employees pulling $100k+ pensions, walked us through the calculation. You multiply 1 and 2 together, then take 2.438 percent (the rate for people who retire at 62) and that’s your annual pension.

If Howard Wayne retired on election day he would collect: $91,954 per year. Five digits.

Another way to come up with a number is by filling in CalPERS’s Retirement calculator using what we know about Wayne. That produced another set of state pension figures (download the doc here):

$93,189 if he retires on election day.

$98,702 if he retires a year later.

$101,845 if retires a year after that.

$108,132 if he retires in four years—at the end of his City Council term.

All four of those numbers are the “unmodified allowance” and assumes that his wife or other beneficiary would receive no benefits if he passed away.  Those are probably the decisions Wayne says he would first need to make. The calculator indicates that in most scenarios Wayne’s pension would not surpass six figures.

In Blair’s column, Donnellan also charged Wayne with voting to boost his own pension while in the state legislature. In an email, Howard Wayne initially denied his vote  on SB 400 (which we’ve already written about)  benefited him:

When I cast votes in the Assembly on pension issues I could not benefit by them because the bills only affect active members of the system. Legislators are not active members and receive no pension for legislative service.

But Wayne did benefit from SB 400 as a deputy attorney general, especially as he returned to the Department of Justice. His campaign spokesman Steve Rivera responded via email:

Howard wanted me to let you know that it wasn’t part of his plan. When he voted for it, he was exempt from it (and still is until he retires) and was looking at State Senate which would have kept him exempt. He returned to the AG because he needed a job after the state assembly, not to rip-off the taxpayers for his pension.

Using the California Foundation’s formula, if SB 400 never passed and there had been no further changes, Wayne could collect $75,434 annually if he were to retire now. That means SB 400 benefited him to the tune of $16,520 per year.

Wayne’s campaign correctly points out that this is a state pension and that a deputy city attorney with similar experience would be pulling a much larger pension from the city of San Diego.

Does your head hurt? Ours do.  We’re not  accountants, so if anyone finds a flaw in our calculations, we will update this post.



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