When we split obligations into how much California owes to those who have already retired and current employees, a startling fact emerges. The assets California governments have now aren’t even enough to cover what it owes to current retirees. For all employees combined, retirees are owed $134.5 billion as compared to $112.6 billion in total assets. California governments do not have enough money to pay what they owe retirees, and they have nothing at all set aside for current employees. Every year, employees have funds deducted from their paychecks to go into the pension funds. Those funds will go to retirees. By the time it’s their turn, there will be no money left for current employees. Current employees are forced to pay into a retirement system that may be bankrupt when they retire.
Tesla Inc.’s sales in Hong Kong came to a standstill after authorities slashed a tax break for electric vehicles on April 1, demonstrating how sensitive the company’s performance can be to government incentive programs. Not a single newly purchased Tesla model was registered in Hong Kong in April, according to official data from the city’s Transportation Department analyzed by The Wall Street Journal. In March, shortly after the tax change was announced and ahead of the April 1 deadline, 2,939 Tesla vehicles were registered there—almost twice as many as in the last six months of 2016.
CalPERS may soon report investment earnings for the fiscal year ending June 30 that are near or even above its long-term target of 7 percent, up from a return of 0.61 percent the previous year. But the nation’s largest public pension system will still be seriously underfunded. . . . Despite a lengthy bull market that followed a stock market crash in 2008, CalPERS recently was only 65 percent funded. Now CalPERS is worried about a downturn that might drop funding below 50 percent, a red line actuaries think makes recovery very difficult.
Many California cities have issued “pension obligation bonds” to cover rising retiree benefit costs with borrowing rather than tax money, based on the same assumption that arbitrage – betting that the difference between loan interest rates and investment earnings – can be a net winner. However, like Orange County and SANDAG, some learned that trying to predict global markets is dangerous. The largest single debt owed by the city of Stockton when it declared bankruptcy was a pension obligation bond. Hundreds of school districts issued “capital appreciation bonds” that postpone repayments for decades while the accumulated interest magnifies debt. Poway Unified in rural San Diego County became a poster child for financial irresponsibility when it was revealed that its $105 million bond would cost $1 billion to repay.
The board that oversees the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System will meet Tuesday to consider cutting its “assumed rate of return,” the yearly expected earnings for its investment portfolio, from 7.5% to 7.25%. The move is expected to shift about $38 million in retirement costs onto the city’s general fund, which pays for police patrols, firefighter staffing and other basic services, in mid-2018. The pension board also has the option to pursue a more dramatic step: taking the investment assumption to 7%, which would add $93 million to the city’s yearly pension burden, officials said.