MOORLACH UPDATE — Cost of Engineers — August 26, 2015

Last week’s Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Development Committee hearing on SBX1-9 was observed and fact-checked by Union Watch in the first piece below (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pothole — August 19, 2015 John Moorlach).

A bill can be killed at any Senate Committee at which it is heard. If you only have one Committee to discuss the bill before it goes to the Senate Floor, then a strategy that can be used by the opposition is to misrepresent the facts, act incredulous that a bill of this nature is even being discussed at all, and remind everyone that you are the leader of a public employee union. This is what occurred. It may not be ethical, but in Sacramento it works.

For a refresher on SBX1-9 and the mismanagement of Caltrans, please review the following:

* MOORLACH CALTRANS UPDATE — Dan Walters — August 24, 2015 John Moorlach

* MOORLACH CALTRANS UPDATE — Senate Hearing Video Clips — August 20, 2015
August 21, 2015 John Moorlach

* MOORLACH CALTRANS UPDATE — Facts vs. PECG — August 18, 2015 John Moorlach

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Turn Your Radio On — August 14, 2015 John Moorlach

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Transportation Strategies — August 13, 2015 John Moorlach

* MOORLACH CALTRANS UPDATE — Cost Overruns — August 12, 2015 John Moorlach

The Sacramento Bee provides the outcome of the annual Republicans versus Democrats Softball Game in the second piece below. It includes a link to the video, which includes my photo-bombing the Democrats Team Photo. It was a fun evening and I even played First Base for a few of the final innings. It is a good strategy to let the Democrats win once each decade. Last night was that one time for this decade.

Union Watch

Caltrans Union Spokesman Understates Engineers’ Cost by $71M

By Robert Fellner

In a hearing on Senator Moorlach’s SBX1-9 (Responsible Contacting for Caltrans) bill, Ted Toppin of the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) made a series of demonstrably false claims regarding the cost of Caltrans engineers.

Toppin claimed that the cost of a fully-loaded engineer – including all wages, benefits and even the cost of their office and service truck – was $116,000. A review of the department’s 2014 payroll data reveals that the average cost for a “transportation engineer” was $128,638. This is only for regular transportation engineers and excludes any engineer with a preface such as senior, supervising, principal, etc. Additionally, it understates their total cost as it does not include the cost of their trucks and office space.

In 2014, Caltrans had 5,646 full-time regular transportation engineers on their payroll. Consequently, Toppin understates the cost of employing engineers by at least $71,000,000 per year for the department.

The highest compensated regular transportation engineer received $213,000, with principal transportation engineer, Kenneth Terpstra, leading all classifications of engineers with $243,000 in total compensation.

Later, Toppin is incredulous at the notion that a state engineer could make $138,000 a year, stating that, “There is no state engineer in this state, making $138,000 a year…I think it probably tops out for top engineers at around $110,000.”

Here it is clear Toppin is speaking about all categories of engineers, not merely the regular transportation engineers analyzed above. It is also likely he is referring to wages only, not total compensation. To be even more charitable, we will also assume he is referring to “regular pay” only, and in addition to excluding benefits, will also exclude any overtime earnings or supplemental wages classified as “other pay.”

Given the above, how does his claim contrast against the 2014 payroll data?

Six engineers received regular pay in excess of $138,000 last year and 1,581, or nearly 20% of all engineers, received over $110,000. If we include total wages, those numbers rise to 69 and 2,101, respectively.

Finally, Toppin expressed regret that the director of the department makes only $169,000 or so. He might be pleased to know that thanks to the incomparably generous leave policies offered by California’s public sector, the director was able to cash in roughly $80,000 worth of unused leave to boost his 2014 pay to $247,000, for a total compensation package of $302,000.

Mr. Toppin’s inaccurate testimony before the Senate committee fits a pattern best epitomized by the Legislative Analyst’s Office: “the overarching numbers given by Caltrans are not supported by data.”

Given the poor grasp on matters as straightforward as personnel costs, it is little wonder there exists deep skepticism about whether Caltrans is providing taxpayers with the best value possible for their tax dollars.

Robert Fellner is the Director of Transparency Research at the California Policy Center.

VIDEO: California Democrats trounce Republicans in legislative softball game

By Jeremy B. White


California Democrats finally replicated their electoral dominance on the softball diamond, crushing their Republican rivals 24-10 during a Tuesday night charity softball match at Raley Field..

Despite controlling every statewide office and majorities in both houses of the State Legislature, Democratic lawmakers have consistently lost the annual legislative softball game. But they broke through this year, thanks in part to strong performances from most valuable players Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, and Autumn Burke, D-Los Angeles.

The proceeds from the game go to the The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Sacramento. Organizers beat their goal of raising $20,000 by game day, pulling in at least $25,000 and selling a record number of tickets.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert


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