The bullet train fiasco is the topic.
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The L.A. Times’ Friday report …
Los Angeles’ top budget official raised the specter of bankruptcy on Friday in a sweeping report in which he called for new taxes, major pension reform and possibly layoffs.
Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said rising employee costs combined with flat-lining revenues have left the city in a precarious position. Even after reducing its workforce by 4,900 positions in recent years, the city faces a $222-million budget shortfall, he said, a number that is expected to rise to $427 million by 2014-15.
Ed Mendel continues to break more juicy stories about CalPERS than the rest of the state media combined. Along with the Dans (Weintraub and Borenstein), he will be a first-ballot inductee in the Golden State Pension Coverage Hall of Fame. His latest scoop shows CalPERS officials being more honest than they’ve ever been, worrying that a big economic downturn could drive the giant pension agency down to just 40 percent of necessary funding. So why does CalPERS keep cranking out the happy talk and disinformation on its calpersresponds.com website? This, as the kids say, is wack.
Ed Mendel’s report on CalPERS’ horrible investment returns over the past five years — 99 percent of big government pension funds did better — brings me back to the point I made two months back: No matter how badly CalPERS does, the bonuses keep flowing. I predict that later this year, we’ll find out this is still the case. It’s not like, yunno, CalPERS is hard up for cash. Groan.
This Sacramento Bee story pointing out that local governments in its region spent more propping up failing public employee pension plans than it would cost to build the Kings a new arena is interesting because it points to a part of the pension debacle that never gets enough attention. A central argument against public spending on sports facilities is that they’re simply not necessities and that they amount to giveaways to the politically connected. The exact same thing is true of ludicrously generous pensions. With the possible exception of police, they’re just not necessary to attract and retain public employees.
The UC Davis pepper spray incident now has an upside: It’s going to force the political left to confront how its coddling of public employees goes against its alleged love of “social justice.” Normally this schism is only obvious when it comes to how Democrats protect teachers’ interests over K-12 students. Now I bet it becomes obvious with how they’ll protect police officers over college students involved in a passive protest. Enjoy!
After Jerry Brown mocked Senate President Darrell Steinberg last fall for pushing the latest “siren song of school reform,” the gov went on to tout local control as a better way than the current emphasis on student testing and teacher accountability. Here and elsewhere, I’ve pointed out the obvious — in effect, if not in words, what Brown wants is tantamount to a return to the old days of how public education operated. Yo, Jerry: K-12 schools way back when were so dysfunctional that it triggered the broad education reform movement that you now consider a trendy failure, including the misfire that is No Child Left Behind. I’ve been waiting …. and waiting … and waiting … for someone else in the media to figure this out. Now someone has, and lordy lordy, it’s former Sac Bee editorial page editor Peter Schrag, one of the most respected establishment voices on education.
The very element that gives Jerry Brown the best chance to sell his tax hike plan — if it doesn’t go through, K-12 students will take a brutal beating — should terrify state educators. Kids are being used as political props in a down-and-dirty effort to raise taxes by any means necessary — but with an electorate that’s usually hostile to tax hikes. Should the education establishment want students to be the human sacrifices if voters don’t buy Jerry’s plan? Of course not. Now Tom Torlakson has finally figured out what’s at risk.
Here’s a sharp Cal Watchdog analysis by one “Chris Reed” of how Orange County’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy was so unique that it doesn’t offer much in the way of lessons for local governments now considering bankruptcy — but that the aftermath of Orange County’s quick recovery from bankruptcy offers painful lessons for voters dumb enough to believe their leaders have a learning curve:
An otherwise-superb L.A. Times story posted online Saturday — “Salary ‘spiking’ drains public pension funds, analysis finds” – includes this flat assertion: “Government jobs historically have been a tough sell because of the modest salaries they often provide; one incentive for prospective workers was the generous pension that came with being a cop or a county planner.” This is crap. This is 10,000 percent crap. I have lived in California since 1990, and, with the exception of law enforcement, I defy anyone to show me any evidence that any state or local government agency in California has truly struggled to fill a job in that 22-year span.