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Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 10, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Last-minute pay raises boost firefighter pensions

Half of contributions come from paychecks

Walla Walla Police Chief Chuck Fulton is shown on the job in Walla Walla, Wash., shortly before he retired in 2012. Fulton's salary was increased by more than 9 percent, which increased Fulton's retirement pension by about $10,000 per year. (AP Photo/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Jeff Horner)

Walla Walla Police Chief Chuck Fulton is shown on the job in Walla Walla, Wash., shortly before he retired in 2012. Fulton’s salary was increased by more than 9 percent, which increased Fulton’s retirement pension by about $10,000 per year. (AP Photo/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Jeff Horner)

As a taxpayer and a professional firefighter of nearly 15 years, I appreciated your recent article regarding the practice of “pension spiking” by members of the LEOFF-I system [“State feels the bite of employee ‘pension spiking,’ ” page one, April 7]. I was disappointed, however, to see that the only contrast made was to the state pension plan for teachers.Under the current law-enforcement and firefighter-pension system (LEOFF-II), in which 97 percent of Washington’s professional firefighters are participants, pension spiking has been made impossible due to the fact that our final benefit is based on the high average salary over five years. Additionally, most of us are hardworking, honest individuals who wouldn’t choose to engage in this behavior even if we could.

Moreover, the article fails to mention that under LEOFF-II, 50 percent of the contributions to the system come from our paychecks, 30 percent from our local employers, and only 20 percent from state contributions.

Please continue engaging in investigative journalism and keeping the public aware of issues, but please also ensure that your articles present the entire picture. This is an issue of individuals, not one of the entire profession.

Jake Gillanders, Kingston

LEOFF-1 pensioners should not collect more than $100,000 per year

There are multimillion-dollar burdens that payments to the LEOFF-1 recipients are imposing on taxpayers [“State feels the bite of employee ‘pension spiking,’ ” page one, April 7]. Unfortunately, this is age-class warfare at its worst.

The medical bills and pensions of this group are so expensive that there is no money left to hire young workers to do the jobs that a city needs to have done.

How do you justify to a young couple making $50,000 per year and raising a child that they need to pay higher taxes to pay LEOFF-1 pensioners $150,000 for not working?

The dire state of the budgets of cities, counties and the state make it ludicrous to say that “we promised these benefits 40 years ago and we have to pay.”

Obviously, it will be impossible to pay for much longer. Do the cities declare bankruptcy and pay the retirees 25 cents on the dollar?

Instead, how about this idea. No LEOFF-1 pensioner can collect more than $100,000 per year for not working. Also, LEOFF-1 pensioners must pay a nominal fee each month for health care. Try to argue that idea as not being fair to a 30-year-old trying to make a living.

Gene Jarstad, Seattle

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