For California workers, retiring pays better than working

SACRAMENTO — Civil service retirements in California are running 16 percent ahead of last year, suggesting that pay reductions, furloughs, diminishing resources and heavier workloads are pushing many employees to the exits, according to data from the state's largest government retirement provider.

California state worker retirements from January through July rose by 13 percent over a year earlier, according to figures compiled by the California Public Employees' Retirement System, spiking shortly after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger started employee furloughs in February.

Meanwhile, local government retirements rose 17 percent.

An anticipated surge driven by an aging work force accounts for part of the trend. Many cities and counties across the state have furloughed workers, cut pay and offered early retirement incentives to move some employees out.

But the state hasn't offered its employees any "golden handshakes." Instead, furloughs – combined with more work and a sense that their employer is in decline – have prodded some state workers into retiring sooner than they'd planned.

It's a "golden handshake" — minus the gold.

"I've done the math," said Terry Sutherland, a Franchise Tax Board supervisor in the Bay Area with 43 years of state service. "I'll be making more retired than working. I just can't afford to subsidize my job any more." He plans to retire in November.

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