The cities of San Marcos, Santa Rosa, and Vista oppose the bill, as do the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities. San Francisco has yet to take a position. In April, the Assembly Appropriations Committee produced analysis saying that costs to the state's general fund would exceed $200 million per year, not counting costs to cities, counties, and joint-powers authorities. The bill has been slightly amended since, but potential costs remain high.

Though the bill won't go far improving public safety health care, it will put cash in police and firefighters' pockets. If the bill passes, a police officer who gets cancer 9 years after retiring — regardless of his family history, whether he smoked, or any other medical evidence — would be eligible for cash payments on top of his pension. If he were deemed 100 percent disabled by his cancer, he would receive $986.69 per week for the rest of his life. If he had a wife who didn't work — who was 100 percent dependent — she could receive the same amount per week following his death.

The bill would increase San Francisco's annual workers' compensation bills for cancer-stricken public-safety retirees by more than 50 percent to about $1.2 million without notably improving their health care.

Just a few months ago, this seemed to be the year California finally realized just how lavish its public payrolls had become. On Aug. 3, SF Weekly reported that that former Police Chief Heather Fong cashed in $95,907 worth of unused sick days on top of her $266,000 pension. In a still-unfolding scandal in the tiny L.A. suburb of Bell, the city manager was paid $800,000 per year, topped off with a lifetime pension worth roughly $30 million.

Earlier this year, state Treasurer John Chiang supported legislation intended to reduce so-called pension spiking, where government workers tack on leave, last-minute promotions, overtime, and other pay to their final year's salaries to boost their pensions. And San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi has famously backed a ballot measure requiring city workers to contribute more to their pension and health benefit costs, citing unfunded city medical obligations totaling $4 billion.

But Chiang withdrew his support last week after amendments added at the unions' behest watered down the pension reform bill to near-meaninglessness. In San Francisco the mayor and much of the rest of the city's political establishment have attacked Adachi as a menace to the little guy.

Even if Adachi's measure passes, its benefits will erode over time. In Sacramento and San Francisco, public sector unions will continue their decades-long practice of financing Democratic candidates' campaigns for office, then getting them to back innocuous-seeming, yet lavish pay-and-benefits-padding legislation.

That's the real cancer afflicting California.

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