Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, one of the most aggressively pro-freedom city councilmen, is under siege from the unions in one of the most corrupt local elections in the country. Along with a few other government officials around the country, which include Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker, he tried to reign in the out-of-control and unsustainable increasing costs of government employees, particularly their pensions. Up for reelection this year, DiCiccio is being challenged by union-backed Democrat insurance executive Karlene Keogh Parks. The unions unsuccessfully attempted to recall him in 2011.
DiCiccio wants to cut $79 million in government waste from the City of Phoenix. The unions are furious that he exposed their "food tax for pay raises scheme.” The unions want to extend an “emergency” food tax that was implemented temporarily to keep government going. It was not intended to provide extras like raises and bonuses. Many cities don’t even have a food tax. DiCiccio discovered that since the food tax was implemented, the City of Phoenix has brought in $145 million extra, coincidentally almost the same amount the city has paid out in pay raises and bonuses during that same period. City of Phoenix staff admit that if they hadn’t spent the money on pay raises and bonuses, they could have “hired over 350 new police officers, restored all after school programs, restored senior programs or reinstated library hours.” DiCiccio worked hard to persuade his fellow city council members to vote in May to phase out the tax, beginning in January 2014.
It angers the unions that DiCiccio wants to “drain their slush fund for pay raises and bonuses” – at a time when most Americans in the private sector are seeing stagnant-level paychecks and salary cuts. Public-safety pension benefits for City of Phoenix retirees are higher than the state average, because of pension spiking. The city lets retiring public safety officers cash in their unused sick leave, vacation time and even fringe benefits such as a uniform allowance, in order to increase their pensions. Consequently, the average pension for a retired Phoenix firefighter is $62,082 a year, and the average pension for a retired police officer is $58,016. The statewide average public-safety pension is only $49,480. The city’s public-safety retirement cost skyrocketed to around $129 million in 2014, compared to only $7.2 million in 2003. Some employees become millionaires in their first few years of retirement, and the typical retirement payout to a public safety employee now exceeds Arizona’s average wage. The Arizona Republic ran a full expose on the shocking statistics earlier this year. The Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit against the City of Phoenix over pension spiking earlier this month.