Retired public workers defend 'modest pension' - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Retired public workers defend 'modest pension'

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A group of retired public employees said Monday they aren't getting rich and are not to blame for the fiscal problems of state and local government.

At a downtown San Diego news conference, about 10 retirees who billed themselves as the "Pension Truth Squad" said they receive modest pensions after decades of work for school districts, fire departments and Caltrans.

Stories of inflated pension payouts only involve a tiny portion of retirees, they said.

Blaming government deficits on pensions amounts to "an assault on the middle class and retirees," said Butch Biendara, a Caltrans engineer for more than 40 years.

"I feel like I have earned my right to my modest pension, Biendara said.

He said he lives in a 50-year-old house in Clairemont and drives a 1988 Toyota pickup, so he's not getting rich in retirement.

According to Californians for Retirement Security, the average public pension in the state is $26,000. In San Diego, the average pension is $35,000, according to the organization.

Gayle Chenoweth, who retired after 24 years as an office assistant at a Central Valley high school, said she receives $700 a month in her pension.

Mike Diaz, a firefighter in Escondido for 30 years, said retirees are not against pension reform, but new plans have to be fiscally responsible, not tailored to the political ideologies of their supporters.

The news conference particiants are enrolled either in the California Public Employees Retirement System, the biggest pension organization in the United States, or the California Teachers Retirement System.

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