Some California Lawmakers Collect Public Pension Checks and Legislator’s Salaries, Prompting Criticism

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Members of the California Senate meet on Sept. 11, 2015. Three proposed Senate bills dealing with criminal justice are opposed by the Orange County District Attorney's Office. (Credit: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

Republican state Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa has emerged as a leading voice in the Legislature against skyrocketing debt piled up by public pension systems.

But some in the pension reform movement say the former Orange County treasurer may be contributing to the problem: Moorlach receives an $83,827 government pension check from the Orange County Employees Retirement System while making $100,113 a year as a senator.

At least 16 other state lawmakers collect two checks each month, including Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), who retired two years ago at 50 as a captain in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. When added to his legislative pay, Cooper’s annual pension of $173,820 brings his total income each year to $273,000.

Advocates for a pension system overhaul say legislators are entitled to the benefits they earned. But, they add, the costly pension perk is an example of what is wrong with public retirement benefits: Government workers can retire too soon with lucrative benefits that the pension systems cannot sustain.

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