04/19/2018

News

California owes $40 million in back wages to its judges. It’s refusing to pay them

Winning the case could save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. But continuing to fight it carries an expensive risk, too. The state must pay 10 percent annual interest on the back wages and benefits, meaning the bill is climbing by $4 million a year as the case drags on at the 2nd District Court […]

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California Medicaid expansion enrolled hundreds of thousands of ineligible people, federal report finds

California signed up an estimated 450,000 people under Medicaid expansion who may not have been eligible for coverage, according to a report by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s chief watchdog. In a Feb. 21 report, the HHS inspector general estimated that California spent $738.2 million on 366,078 expansion beneficiaries who were ineligible. It […]

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L.A. school board approves three-year benefit package with some cost containment

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday approved a three-year benefits package that contains some costs but falls well short of the savings that district officials say is needed to keep the school system solvent. The 60,000 employees of L.A. Unified are not among the nation’s highest paid, but most enjoy comprehensive medical benefits […]

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California tax revenues far exceed expectations for second month in a row

California’s tax revenues far exceeded expectations in January for the second consecutive month, but it remains to be seen how much of the excess reflects underlying strength in the economy, versus people speeding up their 2017 state income tax payments while they were still fully deductible on federal tax returns. State income tax revenues for […]

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“Microbes reportedly corroding submerged Bay Bridge welds”

Caltrans is reportedly looking into the impact of potentially damaging microorganisms on welds on the underwater foundation of the new span of the Bay Bridge. A report by NBC Bay Area found that corrosion on the piles supporting the foundation — which are made from steel 3 and 3/4 inches thick — show evidence of […]

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The cost of healthcare for California government workers when they retire rises sharply to $91.5 billion

California taxpayers are on the hook for more than $91.5 billion to provide health and dental benefits to state government workers when they retire, according to a report issued Wednesday by the state controller’s office.

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Thousands of striking Oakland city workers hit the picket lines

In addition to the libraries and recreation centers, the strike brought to a standstill street cleaning, senior centers, the hauling away of illegal dumping, fire and building inspections, parking citations, after-school programs, and the filing of non-emergency crime and traffic reports. When strong winds Monday night knocked down 15 trees and many more branches, emergency contractors were brought in to clear them, said city spokeswoman Karen Boyd.

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San Diego boosts police pay up to 30 percent amid staffing crisis

San Diego boosted pay between 25 percent and 30 percent for the city’s police officers on Tuesday to help solve a crisis of departing officers that has lengthened response times, limited proactive policing and ballooned overtime budgets.

The City Council unanimously approved the pay hikes, which also aim to attract recruits to the police academy. They come as the number of officers has dropped to about 1,820 — more than 10 percent below a goal of 2,040.

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One city’s struggle with mounting CalPERS costs

After six months of study and negotiation, the city of more than 36,000 located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains east of Pasadena developed an unusual five-point “CalPERS Response Plan“ that does not cut staff or services.

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California should be able to reduce public employees’ pension benefits, Jerry Brown argues

Five years later, he’s in court making an expansive case that government agencies should be able to adjust pension benefits for current workers, too.

A new brief his office filed in a union-backed challenge to Brown’s 2012 pension reform law argues that faith in government hinges in part on responsible management of retirement plans for public workers.

“At stake was the public’s trust in the government’s prudent use of limited taxpayer funds,” the brief reads, referring to the period when he advocated for pension changes during the recession.

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California’s lawmakers should have a surplus next year. Will they spend it or save it?

The LAO’s outlook shows the state would finish its 2018-19 budget year with more than $19 billion in reserves – assuming lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown don’t make any more spending commitments. About $11 billion is obligated for the state’s rainy day fund.

Lawmakers could spend about $7.5 billion of the surplus, although analysts recommend that they save it to prepare for a recession.

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California cities get next year’s pension bill. ‘It’s not sustainable,’ Sacramento official says

The Sacramento region’s largest local governments will see pension costs go up by an estimated 14 percent next fiscal year, starting a series of annual increases that many city officials say are “unsustainable” and will force service cuts or tax hikes.

The increases come after CalPERS in December reduced the expected rate of return from investments, forcing local governments and other participants in the state’s retirement plan to pay more to cover the cost of pensions.

. . . Leyne Milstein, the city of Sacramento’s finance director, said the city’s pension costs will double in seven years. While city revenues have also increased in recent years, thanks in part to a strong real-estate market, they have not increased as much as pension costs in actual dollars.

“It’s not sustainable,” Milstein said. “These costs are going to make things incredibly challenging.”

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Supreme Court to Consider Public Worker Union Dues

The Supreme Court said Thursday it would consider whether public employees can be required to pay union dues, revisiting an issue that deadlocked the court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last year.

Under a 1977 Supreme Court precedent, states may authorize contracts between public agencies and their employee unions that require represented workers to pay dues, or an equivalent fee, for collective bargaining costs.

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California Schools Facing $24B in Retiree Health Costs

California schools are on the hook for $24 billion in future health care costs for their retirees, a mountain of debt that’s forcing some districts to curb benefits or spend less on teacher salaries and classroom equipment, according to a new state report. Los Angeles Unified School District boasts a whopping 56 percent share — or $13.5 billion — of the unfunded liability, although it educates nine percent of California’s public school population. It’s historically provided some of the most generous retiree health benefits, including lifetime coverage for retirees and their spouses. Teachers’ union representatives argued good health care is an essential tool for recruiting and retaining teachers. But the looming debt means newer teachers are offered skimpier benefits and less money is available to spend in classrooms.

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L.A. pension officials deliver another financial blow to the city budget

The City Employees’ Retirement System board, which oversees pension benefits for thousands of city workers, voted unanimously to cut its assumed rate of return — the yearly earnings expected from the agency’s investment portfolio — to 7.25%, down from 7.5%.

The decision is expected to shift $38 million in retirement costs onto the general fund budget, consuming funds that would otherwise pay for basic services. And it comes at a time of increased concern over the city’s growing pension burden.

Another pension agency, which oversees benefits for thousands of retired firefighters and police officers, recently reduced its own rate of return and recalculated the expected lifespan of its beneficiaries. Meanwhile, growth in the overall city payroll is also expected to push pension payments upward.

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