Despite historic revenue gains, California’s public schools are in financial trouble. While California’s public schools often suffer financial distress during recessions, their current plight is alarmingly taking place during an economic recovery and after a large tax increase. The principal cause is exploding spending on pension and retiree health care obligations.
Six years later, the state is no longer projecting massive deficits and the governor’s metaphorical wall is now more like a short fence. Tax increases approved by voters in 2012 and in 2016 have played a major role in making that happen. There’s broad agreement that a smaller “wall of debt” is good news. The problem, though, is that Brown’s original definition left out billions of dollars in obligations that someone will have to pay. And it’s unclear who that will be or when it will happen. . . . When he took office, Brown’s budget team identified 10 short-term government debts as a threat to California’s chances of recovery — debts that totaled $34.7 billion. . . By the close of the fiscal year that ended on Friday night, the state had paid off some $32 billion of the “wall of debt” identified by Brown in 2011. . . . Looming larger than anything now are the retirement promises made to state employees — totaling at least $242 billion, according to the governor’s finance team. Some insist that projection is too low, that taxpayers will have to hand over much more to fully pay off obligations to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). Add those pension debts to other chronic obligations — transportation loans and borrowing from special budget funds during lean years — and the state Department of Finance puts the total size of existing budget debt at more than $283.3 billion.
Last month, a Civil Grand Jury report concluded that most of the debt of the San Francisco Employees Retirement System, which has been underfunded for more than a decade, was approved by the voters who in theory are a safeguard. . . . The grand jury suggests voters may have been misled by official ballot pamphlet cost information on two of the three “significant” pension increases described in the report. A dozen retroactive retirement benefit increases between 1996 and 2008 are listed in a report appendix. Voters were told that even with a retroactive pension increase for most employees (Proposition C in 2000) the city is not expected to make an annual payment to the retirement system “for at least the next 15 years.”
This paper evaluates the wage, employment, and hours effects of the first and second phase-in of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, which raised the minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 per hour in 2015 and to $13 per hour in 2016.
Using a variety of methods to analyze employment in all sectors paying below a specified real hourly rate, we conclude that the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016. Evidence attributes more modest effects to the first wage increase. We estimate an effect of zero when analyzing employment in the restaurant industry at all wage levels, comparable to many prior studies.
Meanwhile, the 1999 nurse staffing law has spawned annual efforts by other California unions to bypass collective bargaining and pursue working condition goals via political decree from a Legislature whose majority Democrats are closely aligned with labor. Two bills moving through the Legislature this year are examples of the syndrome, one affecting dialysis clinics that treat kidney failure patients by periodically filtering wastes from their blood, and the other affecting private ambulance companies. Union advocates contend, as the CNA did in 1999, that they would safeguard patients and, therefore, justify the bypassing of contract negotiations. However, both would also directly raise employers’ costs and indirectly tilt future labor negotiations by taking key financial items off the table. Not surprisingly, therefore, employers oppose them as gratuitous and unrealistically rigid and argue that they will eventually increase medical costs borne by patients and their insurers and/or restrict access to medical services.