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    OC firefighter amasses crazy overtime pay
    • October 11, 2023

    As wildfires raged across California, state residents rightly appreciated the tough work state and local firefighters performed. In the aftermath of the latest fire season, fire officials and union representatives complained about having insufficient firefighting resources. As one news report explained, these agencies say they are “stretched to the limit.”

    Yet few officials – including politicians from both parties – want to discuss one of the key reasons California struggles to keep a lid on seasonal wildfires: the oversized pay and benefit packages of existing unionized firefighters. Their unions point to the relatively low base pay earned by some firefighters to detract attention, but occasionally a news item brings the shocking pay and benefit numbers into view.

    Last week, the Orange County Register’s Teri Sforza reported on an Orange County Fire Authority firefighter who earned $290,000 in overtime last year. Combined with salary and generous benefits, his total compensation topped $526,000. Amazingly, that’s lower than the overtime earned by some other California firefighters. (Keep in mind California’s inmate firefighters earn only a few dollars a day.)

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    The Transparent California database shows such taxpayer-funded generosity is no aberration. We count 44 Orange County firefighters who in 2022 earned compensation packages above $400,000. Much of this includes overtime, but firefighter schedules – including paid time while on call sleeping – are set up in a way to maximize OT payouts. The taxpayer-backed unfunded portions of their pensions aren’t even included in these tabulations, by the way.

    Such high costs are causing something known as “crowd out” – the pay packages crowd out funding for other public services. The pay and soaring overtime also are creating pressure for higher taxes at the local level. These inexplicable pay levels aren’t needed given the long lines that ensue whenever there’s a vacant firefighter position.

    Meanwhile, big-spending, union-friendly politicians have been trying to further boost these pay packages. Assembly member Heath Flora, R-Modesto, authored a bill, Assembly Bill 1254, that would have given state firefighters automatic raises in perpetuity, but it fortunately died in committee. No wonder California taxpayers are also “stretched to the limit.”

    ​ Orange County Register