Go West Young Man, To The "New Normal" Dream Job: California State Workers Earning $822,000

Tyler Durden's picture

There was a time when working on Wall Street, either on the sell or buy side,  was the dream of every able-bodied worker who could do simple addition in their head and wasn't afraid to cut the occasional corner in exchange for a bottle of Bollinger and a sizable year end bonus. That, however, was so 2006 and with the long overdue conversion of the banking sector into a utility the stratospheric compensation payments from the peak of the credit bubble are long gone. So what is the New Normal dream job? Become a California state worker, preferably one who deals with neurotic and/or crazy people (i.e., a psychiatrist), and rake it in. The following chart from Bloomberg shows just how generous the otherwise insolvent state of California is when it comes to paying its public servants, and the 100%+ increase in California employee state pay since 2005. Needless to say, this is a rate of increase in compensation that 99% of workers in the private sector would die for.

Some other stunning observations from Bloomberg on the best job taxpayer money can buy. The best paid job: psychiatrist. At this pace, they will have lots and lots of patients.

Psychiatrists were among the highest-paid employees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and New Jersey, with total compensation $270,000 to $327,000 for top earners. State police officers in Pennsylvania collected checks as big as $190,000 for unused vacation and personal leave as they retired young enough to start second careers, while Virginia paid active officers as much as $109,000 in overtime alone, the data show.


The numbers are even larger in California, where a state psychiatrist was paid $822,000, a highway patrol officer collected $484,000 in pay and pension benefits and 17 employees got checks of more than $200,000 for unused vacation and leave. The best-paid staff in other states earned far less for the same work, according to the data.


Mohammad Safi, graduate of a medical school in Afghanistan, collected $822,302 last year, up from $90,682 when he started in 2006, the data show. Safi was placed on administrative leave in July and is under investigation by the Department of State Hospitals, formerly the Department of Mental Health.

Another perk of public workers in Cali? $200,000 in accrued vacation pay:

The disparity with other states is also evident in payments for accumulated vacation time when employees leave public service. No other state covered by the data compiled by Bloomberg paid a worker more than $200,000 for accrued leave last year, while 17 people got such payments in California. There were 240 employees who received at least $100,000 in California, compared with 42 in the other 11 states, the data show. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie calls such payments “boat checks” because they can be large enough to buy a yacht.


Topping the list was $608,821 paid to psychiatrist Gertrudis Agcaoili, 79, who retired last year from the Napa state mental hospital after a 30-year career. Agcaoili said in a telephone interview that it was her right to take the payment.

Can California afford to pay those wages? Of course not:

Across the U.S., such compensation policies have contributed to state budget shortfalls of $500 billion in the past four years and prompted some governors, including Republican Scott Walker of Wisconsin, to strip most government employees of collective-bargaining rights and take other steps to limit payroll spending.


In California, Governor Jerry Brown hasn’t curbed overtime expenses that lead the 12 largest states or limited payments for accumulated vacation time that allowed one employee to collect $609,000 at retirement in 2011. The 74-year-old Democrat has continued requiring workers to take an unpaid day off each month, which could burden the state with new costs in the future.


Last year, Brown waived a cap on accrued leave for prison guards while granting them additional paid days off. California’s liability for the unused leave of its state workers has more than doubled in eight years, to $3.9 billion in 2011, from $1.4 billion in 2003, according to the state’s annual financial reports.

Some are furious. What is shocking is that nobody else is:

“It’s outrageous what public employees in California receive in compensation and benefits,” said Lanny Ebenstein, who heads the California Center for Public Policy, a Santa Barbara-based research institution critical of public payrolls.


“Until public employee compensation and benefits are brought in line, there will be no answer to the fiscal shortfalls that California governments at every level face,” he said.


Among the largest states, almost every category of worker has participated in the pay bonanza. Britt Harris, chief investment officer at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, last year collected $1 million -- including his $480,000 salary and two years of bonuses -- more than four times what Republican Governor Rick Perry received. Pension managers in Ohio and Virginia made up to $678,000 and $660,000, respectively, according to the data, which Bloomberg obtained using public- record requests. In an interview, Harris said public pension pay must be competitive with the private sector to attract top investment talent.

It seems magic money trees don't grow even in Cali, because more money paid out here, means less money availabl there. There being investing in the all important future via education

The result isn’t only a heavier burden on California taxpayers. As higher expenses competed for fewer dollars, per- pupil funding of the state’s public schools dropped to 35th nationally in 2009-2010 from 22nd in 2001-2002. Californians have endured recurring budget deficits throughout the past decade and now face the country’s highest debt and Standard & Poor’s lowest credit rating for a U.S. state.

And so on.

Is this ridiculous compensation arrangement sustainable? Of course not. But just like everything else in the New Normal economy, by the time it crushes, it will be someone else's problem. And it is not like anyone expects that the 120% debt/GDP which the US will so proudly be boasting in 2016 will ever be repaid: one can at best hope it will continue to be rolled, until one day, it can't when future generations, saddled with the benefits of current and prior greed, realize they have had enough.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
pleseus's picture

And California voters voted for a tax increase.  Suckers!

Stackers's picture

Check out the Texas vs New York stats for the real story. Same number of employees and vastly different payout numbers

quintago's picture

A guy goes in for a job interview.

The interviewer asks him, 'Are you allergic to anything?'

He says 'Yes - just caffeine.' '

Have you ever been in the service?' 'Yes,' he says. 'I was in Iraq for two years.'

The interviewer says, 'That will give you 5 extra points toward employment,' and then asks, 'Are you disabled in any way?'

The guy says, 'Yes ...an IED exploded near me and blew my testicles off.'

The interviewer tells the guy, 'O.K. In that case, I can hire you right now. Normal hours are from 8 AM to 4 PM. You can start tomorrow at 11:00 AM.'

The guy is puzzled and says, 'If the hours are from 8 AM to 4 PM, why don't you want me to be here before 11 AM?'

'This is a government job,' the interviewer says. 'For the first three hours we just stand around drinking coffee and scratching our balls. No point in you coming in for that.'

TruthInSunshine's picture

I'm gonna' get me a flock of baby mommas, have them get all the welfare they can scoop up, hire their moms as caretakers and split the state payment with them, get a 10 to 3 government job with health benefits and a great pension making 90k to 180k annually, retire at the age of 48 with a 2 million dollar pension, and then get another government job, and stack the health/life/401(k) benefits, along with another flock of baby mommas, and do it all again, and then retire with another pension and lifetime benefits at 68.

Fuck work.

redpill's picture

The silver lining is that in actuality many of these employees will never be able to collect their pensions because the associated fund is going to have a perpetual shortfall.  When that finally dawns on them the whining will be epic.

TruthInSunshine's picture

Or they'll receive a pile of these, monthly and thusly:

Freedom Bux

Big Slick's picture

LOL!!... Dodge banner at top of my screen "BIG FINISH 2012!"

nope-1004's picture

When the commander in chief sucks off the system, is anyone below him expected to be 'noble'?  The entire governmental system, with it's racket of sucking employees, is the problem and needs to be dissolved.


markmotive's picture

You already report to the government. You just don't know it yet.

As the sheep remain glued to American Idol, the crony system rages on.


YBNguy's picture

The diaspora of Californians continues, hide yo' kids - hide yo' wife!

Census reports Cali losing many to bordering [red] states:


new game's picture

we all know the end of new times of old normal with no caps of reason will end abruptly...

feel sorry for the ones paying in; or on second though maybe i don't.

SilverRhino's picture

The sad part is that the Californians relocating NOW are the relatively smart ones. 


akak's picture

And yet they still go on trying to recreate California everywhere else they move to, almost universally to the chagrin and dismay of the longtime residents of those states.

SilverRhino's picture

Well I admit I said relatively.  

They're still idiots compared to the people who never lived there and choose not to live or create socialist shitholes. 

smlbizman's picture

i feel the day is coming when we mark all govt. employees doors with a red "x"....

augustusgloop's picture

or will receive them as a wheelbarrow full of greenbacks only to find that said wheelbarrow full won't even pay for a handjob from the crack whore for whom prescribed xanax as a 800k psychiatrist.

Big Slick's picture

"compensation that 99% of workers in the private sector would die for."

The coming war will see to that. 

Look back.  It always ends in war.

caconhma's picture

"And California voters voted for a tax increase. Suckers!"  God no, the majority of Californians do not pay any taxes; so, they steal money from somebody else.

Finally, this shit would not last long uwithout Obama and the Congress support. It all comes from the top.

forwardho's picture

Red,  me thinks their epic whining may escalate to more than mere words. After all they were PROMISED.

New World Chaos's picture

Unpaid cops will be the most greedy and thuggish gangsters in LA.  Hell, they pretty much already are.

HurricaneSeason's picture

With the early retirement age for the first retirement, many of them are already collecting their $10k a month in retirement.  I can't understand when they worry about someone getting $135 a month in foodstamps when their job went to China or technology or are medically incapacitated, and these clowns rake it in for previously selling license plates or stamps or answering the phone. The jobs that fed those huge salaries are gone, let alone the pensions.

tango's picture

Seriously, what will really happen?  Depending who is in power (and it looks like a permanent Dem lock at this point) I can see federal funds used.  Of course that's just one more step in the road to doom but who cares anymore.

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

Yep.  Either direct Fed purchases, or via BABs (or similar programs).

Peter Orzag advocating for reinstating BABs:


resurger's picture

That's a lot of work!

Am issuing Cali' Appreciation Bonds


darteaus's picture

Twofer: OctoMom is CA based, and AVAILABLE!

jballz's picture


That's the mormon model. Those cult camps have all the women (not allowed to work) collect gov checks, turn them over to the men who run the place. Mostly all tax exempt because they're a "church".

Huge money suck. Good racket if you are running it though. Move to Utah and get yourself enough sister wives you'll not bother wasting your time with the public sector job. 

A Nanny Moose's picture

Daycare...for people who do not work. /facepalm.


resurger's picture


Gimme some CAliforniaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa LOveeeeeeeeeeeee <3

HarryHaller's picture

If you want the real story on CA, then go here:


It's CA law that all state employee salaries are a matter of public record.  If you search by department you'll get the top 10 or so salaries.

bankonzhongguo's picture

I know some folks inside the UC system.  This one campus just created some new position for over $200,000/year plus benefits because NOBODY on the campus could generate a monthly budget to actual financial statement and associated metrics.  Incidentally, NOBDOY on the payroll is getting fired either due to their years of gross negligence.  This would be a part-time project for some junior analyst, but UC despite it's years hundreds of thousands (millions?) of worker-years of operations, millions (billions) in computer/accounting resources and hundreds of millions in annual payroll - they can't do 8th grade math as a fiduciary for the tax paying public.  AND they keep raising tuition.

Total free-fall.

The system must be burned down.

Jack Burton's picture

$85,000 a year to be head of the "Arts Council". WTF is the "Arts Council" and why are California workers paying taxes to fund a couple dozen employees who are over 60,000 dollars a year in pay???

Dr. Richard Head's picture

Without taxes California wouldn't be able to pay its police force appropriately.  Don't you like the police protecting you? /sarc

max2205's picture

Yep and you'll pay for it in property taxes till you can't pay anymore

Matt's picture

Not in California. As I understand it, Property taxes can only rise when there is a change in property ownership. Voted in by referendum in the 1970s, can only be repealed by public referendum.

HarryHaller's picture

The property is also re-assessed if it is re-financed.

CPL's picture

I'm responding for the sake of your awesome avatar.

redpill's picture


And property taxes can rise, but it's capped at 1% beyond its historical maximum.  This is particularly poignant now, when many California properties have lost tremendous value over the last several years.  Assessed values came down with them, but should home values begin to increase again the 1% increase restriction does not apply until the tax amount hits its former peak if the ownership has remained consistent.  For that reason alone it's a good idea for home owners to sell their houses, the problem is they can't afford to.  California is in a downward spiral, it will become a state of increasing extremes, the ultra-wealthy and the poor.  The middle, the words of Mr. Lenin, are being ground between the millstones of taxation and inflation.

DaveyJones's picture

the corrupt system is its own worst enemy

LosOsos's picture

Propery tax base year value can only be reassessed if there is a change in ownership or new construction on the house. So basically the average family who most likely moves a couple times or remodels has their property revalued to today's levels while companies who own large tracts of land get to keep their base value at the 1975 level. Great fucking idea electorate.

Bollixed's picture

Years ago (2005ish?) one of the local Cali newspapers showed where the average property tax in Anahiem where Disneyland is was $1.71 per foot for residential and Walt paid $0.05 a square foot IIRC.

Our house was taxed at $7500 a year and our neighbors on either side who bought in the '50s paid $530 each per year in property taxes.

Prop 13 to the rescue...

Matt's picture

Also, for corporations, what they figured out as a loop-hole was that, rather than transfer ownership of property, you create a company that only owns the property, and you just transfer ownership of the company instead. Presto! No tax increase on corporate properties, ever.

darteaus's picture

And we voted in Jerry Brown!

Talk about doubling down on stupid!

He never exhaled!

The Shootist's picture

Come on guys, what do you think the basketball coach at UCLA makes?

eatthebanksters's picture

Only partof the salary is paid by the state...same with UC football coaches...the difference is made up by private donations from alums and endorsement deals.