Public employee pensions: How lucrative do they get?

The retired city administrator of Vernon, Calif., pulls down a pension of $43,320.53 a month – or close to $520,000 a year – through the underfunded California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which covers about half of all government workers in the state and is the nation’s largest public pension administrator…

Fat pensions like Malkenhorst’s are not typical, of course. AFSCME, which is the largest public-employee union, says that its average member earns less than $45,000 a year and receives an annual pension of roughly $19,000.

But many retirees from state and local government jobs do much better than that. When the advocacy group California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility requested state retirement system records in 2009, it discovered that nearly 15,000 of the state’s retired government employees were receiving pensions of more than $100,000 a year, with Malkenhorst topping the list…

Fueling the backlash is the fact that the retirement system for government workers, especially on the state and local level, has become by many measures a significantly better deal than that available to most people who work for the private sector.