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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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Edward Ring

The Real Reason Behind the Drive to Unionize Charter Schools

Want to know another reason California’s teachers unions are desperate to unionize charter schools? They want the leverage to force these schools to participate in CalSTRS, because CalSTRS charges all its participants the same pension contribution rates.

This is a truly amazing, grotesquely unfair, astonishing scam. It means that new schools have to pay for the every financial mistake that CalSTRS ever made, and they’ve made plenty. CalSTRS is only64 percent funded. CalSTRS is $107 billion in debt – that’s $238,000 peractive member. Better get more active members!

Even CalPERS, the largest public employee pension system in the U.S., and one that has engaged in its own share ofaccounting gimmicks, doesn’t make its financially responsible participants pay for the negligence of its financially irresponsible participants. Every… Read More

Edward Ring

How Can California Reduce the Costs of Incarceration?

California Governor Gavin Newsom has agreed to give state prison correctional officers a 3 percent raise. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, there is “no evident justification” for this raise.

Arecent articlein theSacramento Beesummarizes portions of the LAO report, writing “The last time the state compared state correctional officers’ salaries to their local government counterparts, in 2013, state correctional officers made 40 percent more than officers in county-run jails, according to the LAO analysis,” and, “Since 2013, salary increases for state correctional officers have increased by a compounded 24 percent, according to the LAO.”

Within theLAO report, it is made clear that the rising cost for pensions is a major factor in escalating compensation costs for California’s prison guards. In theory, the cost to provide pension benefits is reasonable. The so-called “normal cost” of a… Read More

Edward Ring

Citizen Reformers Set to Transform Oxnard’s Politics

Oxnard has got a problem. The city’s contributions to CalPERS, which totaled $23 million in their fiscal year 2016-17, are going to increase to $45 million by 2024-25.

Where is this money going to come from? Asreported last week, the “skyrocketing pension costs” have already led Oxnard’s Mayor to call for “painful cuts.” But if pension payments are set to double in just the next six years, where will all these cuts come from?

Meanwhile, in Oxnard, a small group of local activists, led by Aaron Starr, a local executive with a financial background including a CPA, are working to qualify five reform initiatives. If they gather the signatures required for each initiative, residents of the City of Oxnard will vote on them in November 2020.

The process of filing a citizens initiative is relatively straightforward. One reference is Ballotpedia, which provides a good summary oflaws governing the local ballot measuresin… Read More

Edward Ring

City of Oxnard Pension Contributions Set to Double by 2024

As reported by the Ventura County Star, the City of Oxnard faces budget headwinds.Quoted in the article, Mayor Tim Flynn had this to say:

“We’re making decisions that should have been made 10, 20 years ago to put the city on a sustainable path,” Flynn said. “These are very painful cuts, but we have to live within our means. The city historically has not lived within our means.”

City Manager Alex Nguyen was more specific:

“Skyrocketing pension costs and spikes in health care are some of the reasons for the budget shortfall. With projected expenditures approximately $10 million more than anticipated revenue, there is no choice but to recommend programmatic cuts to the City Council.”

Skyrocketing pension costs. You can say that again. Depicted on the chart below is a summary of what’s happening to Oxnard, thanks to “skyrocketing pension costs.” The biggest takeaway from this chart is the fact that Oxnard’s pensions have just begun to “skyrocket.” If you want to skip the details and cut to the… Read More

Edward Ring

Why is San Diego’s Pension Settlement Estimate So Much Money?

In 2012, San Diego voters approved Proposition B, a pension reform measure that replaced pensions for new hires with a 401K plan. Seven years later, it is possible this reform will be completely unwound, because union attorneys have successfully argued that the city didn’t “meet and confer” with the unions before putting the reform measure on the ballot for voter approval.

As reported two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the city’s argument that the San Diego’s mayor, who supported Prop. B, was exercising his right to free speech, and to force him to meet and confer with the unions prior to supporting Prop. B would have been a violation of that right.

Since then, the case has been returned to the original appellate court, which on 3/25 ruled that the city must “meet and confer over the effects of the initiative and to pay the… Read More

Edward Ring

San Diego’s 2012 Pension Reform at Risk

“The ruling is also an implicit endorsement of the state Public Employment Relations Board’s conclusion that the employees hired since the measure took effect must be made whole and get a pension equivalent to what they would have received pre-Proposition B.” Editorial, San Diego Union Tribune, March 18, 2019

The ruling in question is the California’s Supreme Court’s August 2018 decision which found that “San Diego’s six-year-old pension cutbacks were not legally placed on the ballot because city officials failed to negotiate with labor unions before pursuing the measure.” It’s in the news again this week because the U.S. Supreme Court has just announced they will not hear the City’s appeal of the California ruling.

What’s going to happen now is uncertain. Back in 2012, a super-majority of San Diego voters, 65 percent, approved pension… Read More

Edward Ring

California Rule Does Not Protect “Airtime”

Earlier this week the California Supreme Court ruled in the caseCalFire vs CalPERS. The case challenged one of the provisions of California’s 2014 pension reform legislation (PEPRA) which had eliminated the purchase of “Airtime.”

This was the practice whereby retiring public employees could purchase “service credits” that would lengthen the number of years they worked, which would increase the amount of their pensions, even though they hadn’t actually worked those additional years. While the amount these retirees would pay was always estimated to cover how much they’d eventually get back, with interest, in their pensions, in practice these estimates were always too low.

The plaintiffs in the case argued that airtime was protected by the “California Rule,” which, the argued, prevents pension benefits from being reduced unless some other benefit of equal value is offered in return. But… Read More

Katy Grimes

Judge Smacks Down CA Attorney General For “Misleading” Ballot Initiative Language

In a stunning court rebuke of the state Attorney General’s Office, a Sacramento Superior Court Judge announced Friday that Xavier Becerra’s title and summary for the Repeal of the Gas Tax initiative is “misleading and is likely to create prejudice against the measure”— and that he’d “do a rewrite himself” to make it clear the measure would repeal Jerry Brown‘s increases gas taxes and vehicle fees.Read More

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