Website releases benefits info for 3.3 million

In another shot in the war over public pension costs, a California think tank has created a website listing the retirement benefits of 3.3 million participants, including those of CalPERS, the nation’s largest system.

TranparentCalifornia.com, run by the California Public Policy Center in the Orange County town of Tustin, includes information from 37 public pension funds and is searchable by name and job title. The website also includes salary information for public employees. All data is from 2011 and 2012.

The launch of the website comes after CalPERS staff members announced last month they would recommend killing a similar project over concerns it would make retirees vulnerable to con artists. The pension fund’s board will consider the request this month.

Mark Bucher, the think tank’s president, was quoted by the Sacramento Bee as saying the legality of the website had been affirmed in court. Bucher said the aim of the website was to allow state residents to see how much pensions were costing them and spur efforts to make changes in the system to reduce costs.

The battle to cut the state’s pension benefits has been waged on several fronts. Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown pushed through the legislature a package of changes meant to improve the system’s stability. Unions have fought some of them on grounds they violated the state’s constitution.

A proposed ballot measure to make it easier to change retirement benefits and rules has been criticized by CalPERS.

In a press release announcing TransparentCalifornia.com, the think tank said that that in 2012 about 100 retirees received more than $250,000 in annual pension checks and more than 1,700 CalPERS participants received payments of more than $150,000.

Last year, CalPERS reported it has a 16.5 percent return on investment. Its net assets are $281 billion.

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