Four years ago, Los Angeles’ elected officials wrested major financial concessions from the Department of Water and Power’s biggest and most powerful employee union, persuading those workers to go three years without raises. City budget officials billed the agreement as a road map for negotiations with its other employee groups. Soon afterward, several other unions agreed to postpone pay increases for one or more years. Now a new salary package, backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and heading to the City Council next week, would give six raises in five years to thousands of DWP workers. That could spur other unions to seek a similar deal, placing new burdens on a city budget already under significant stress.
Borrowing to make the extra payment would not reduce the state’s overall debt, obviously. Brown contends that it would save money in the long run, because the interest paid on the loan would be less than the projected growth of pension debt.
It’s quite similar to the “pension obligation bonds” that local governments have floated, hoping to come out ahead via arbitrage, but they have sometimes backfired, and Brown is betting $6 billion that CalPERS can achieve its 7 percent annual earnings goal despite what the governor describes as “poor investment returns.” Even if this fiscal gimmick works as hoped, the state’s retirement debt will continue to grow.
The state’s regular payments to CalPERS fall way short of what would be needed to keep the debt from growing, much less pay it down. Overall, CalPERS has less than two-thirds of the money it needs to cover all pension commitments.
Governor Jerry Brown and the California Legislature have approved a scheme under which a special state fund filled with citizen-paid fees will lend money to the state General Fund, which in turn will contribute the proceeds to a state pension fund that in turn will invest in stocks in the hope of generating profits to help reduce pension deficits. In doing so, Brown and legislature haven’t disclosed to citizens that the same profits, if earned, could’ve been used for more citizen services. . . . Though Jerry Brown has not used his recent two terms in office to address core fiscal issues, until now he has generally avoided budgetary gimmicks. This time is different.
Illinois is grappling with a full-fledged financial crisis and not even the lottery is safe – with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner warning the state is entering "banana republic" territory. Facing billions in unpaid bills and pension obligations, the state is hitting a cash crunch that is rare even by Illinois standards. . . . But the problems are years in the making, caused in large in part by the state’s poorly funded pension system— which led Moody’s Investors Services to downgrade the credit rating to the lowest of any state. The state currently has $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations, and a backlog of unpaid bills worth $13 billion.
Contributions to public pension plans have increased in recent years, but their unfunded liabilities have increased more, according to an analysis by the Society of Actuaries released Wednesday.
Between 2006 and 2014, employer contributions increased 76%, up to $85 billion in 2014 from $48 billion, and employee contributions increased 30%, to $37 billion from $28 billion. Total unfunded liabilities increased 150% to $1 trillion in 2014 from $400 billion in 2006, and the plans studied were 73% funded by the end of 2014.