CSR News

CalPERS weighs huge premium hike for long-term care

Posted Oct 04, 2012

It's an old-age safety net offered to California public employees: insurance to cover the exorbitant cost of staying in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and the like.

Now most of the 150,000 or so Californians who buy long-term care insurance from CalPERS are facing what could be a big rate hike.

CalPERS is considering imposing a 75 percent increase in premiums on the vast majority of its long-term care policyholders. They would pay hundreds of dollars a year more – thousands, in some cases – as the California Public Employees' Retirement System tries to fix financial holes in the program.

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Steinberg: Lawmakers consider cap on pensions, not hybrid

Posted Aug 27, 2012

Lawmakers charged with overhauling California's state and local public pension law are considering a plan to cap defined benefit pensions that would not include a second 401(k)-style component common in so-called "hybrid" retirement plans. "There will be a cap," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, during a hallway press conference this afternoon with Capitol reporters.

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Media is wrongly hyping pensions as a cause of city bankruptcies

Posted Aug 08, 2012
The Sacramento Bee
By Rob Feckner

If there is one thing I have learned in my time on the CalPERS board it's this – a little perspective goes a long way. This is especially true when it comes to the news coverage of CalPERS' recently announced investment returns for last fiscal year and the criticism of pensions in municipal bankruptcies. Let me offer a little perspective.

Last fiscal year, CalPERS earned a 1 percent return on our investments. The news has caused some people, including the media, to claim that the sky is falling and to demand that CalPERS "get real" and lower our investment assumptions. A few people have even personally blamed our investment staff.
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Legislators take on pension reform

Posted Aug 06, 2012

After a monthlong break, the Legislature returns to work at the Capitol on Monday to take on one of the Golden State's thorniest issues: public employee pensions.

The Senate and Assembly have just four weeks to vote on hundreds of bills before the two-year session concludes at the end of the month, but the main focus will be on changing the pension compensation system.

Just what those changes will entail is unclear. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed increasing the retirement age and creating a hybrid system that includes a 401(k)-style benefit, among other things, but lawmakers have yet to approve those or anything else.
After a monthlong break, the Legislature returns to work at the Capitol on Monday to take on one of the Golden State's thorniest issues: public employee pensions.

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Prisons, privatization, patronage

Posted Jun 22, 2012

By PAUL KRUGMAN
New York Times

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.

First of all, about those halfway houses: In 2010, Chris Christie, the state’s governor — who has close personal ties to Community Education Centers, the largest operator of these facilities, and who once worked as a lobbyist for the firm — described the company’s operations as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” But The Times’s reports instead portray something closer to hell on earth — an understaffed, poorly run system, with a demoralized work force, from which the most dangerous individuals often escape to wreak havoc, while relatively mild offenders face terror and abuse at the hands of other inmates.

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Departments prepare to slash working retirees

Posted Jun 21, 2012

State Worker Sacramento Bee June 21, 2012

The Brown administration has put out the word: Departments, get ready to whack your working retirees.

The official term for the 5,800 or so state workers who draw both a pension and a paycheck is "retired annuitants." Sometimes they're tagged "double dippers." State workers occasionally refer to them as "retired irritants."

Gov. Jerry Brown has departments thinking about how to eliminate all retired annuitants except those in "mission critical" jobs. The idea enjoys near-universal acclaim.

Still, there are some holes in the arguments of the various proponents.

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Consider a few things before cutting pensions

Posted Jun 20, 2012

June 20, 2012

(Reuters) - The message from voters about public pension plans is clear: They're ready to cut the retirement benefits of police, firefighters, teachers and other state and municipal workers.

The latest indicators include the failed recall of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin - which started with his efforts to cut pensions - and referendums in San Jose and San Diego, where voters overwhelmingly backed pension reform measures.

A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 35 states have reduced pension benefits since the 2008 financial crisis, mostly for future employees. Eighteen states have reduced or eliminated cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) - and some states have even applied these changes retroactively to current retirees.

This week, the Pew Center on the States reported that states are continuing to lose ground in their efforts to cover long-term retiree obligations. In fiscal year 2010, the gap between states' assets and their obligations for retirement benefits was $1.38 trillion, up nearly 9 percent from fiscal 2009. Of that figure, $757 billion was for pensions, and $627 billion was for retiree health care.

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CalPERS hike sets off alarm

Posted Jun 14, 2012

When the nation's second largest purchaser of health care gets socked with a big rate hike, lots of people pay the price.

CalPERS' governing board approved an average 9.5 percent increase in premiums Wednesday, a move that will hurt taxpayers and public employees statewide. Given CalPERS' size and influence, it could affect health care premiums in the private sector, too.

The new rates will cost the average CalPERS member an extra $30 a month starting in January. State and local agencies will pay millions more, too.

"That is a lot," said Paul Ginsburg, who runs a health care think tank in Washington, reacting to CalPERS' announcement.

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CalPERS OKs 9.5 percent health premium hike, but Medicare recipients are spared

Posted Jun 13, 2012

CalPERS today approved a roughly 9.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums. The pension fund's governing board voted unanimously to approve the increase, which will cost the average CalPERS member another $30 a month in premiums. The increase takes effect Jan. 1.

It represents one of the biggest increases in years for CalPERS, which covers 1.3 million public workers and retirees and is one of the largest purchasers of the health care in the nation.

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Jerry Brown moves to eliminate retiree workers

Posted Jun 13, 2012

As Friday's state budget deadline approaches, a little-noticed provision in Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal would cut off thousands of retirees who return to work for the state.

The idea targets all but the most essential of the state's so-called "retired annuitants," a group of about 5,800 workers who drew $110 million in pay from the state last year on top of their pensions.

The Democratic governor's proposal could strike a chord with taxpayers by appearing to crack down on double-dipping. It also appeals to public employee unions – which want to eliminate jobs they believe stunt the growth of the regular workforce – at the same time he's asking union workers to accept furloughs and a 5 percent pay cut.

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California Highway Patrol officers' union agrees to monthly furlough

Posted Jun 08, 2012

For the first time, California's Highway Patrol officers are going to be furloughed.

The union reached an agreement at with Gov. Jerry Brown that furloughs Patrol officers 8 hours per month for one year starting July 1. Officers can bank the hours to take later, but their paychecks will reflect the 5 percent pay reduction regardless.

Department of Personnel Administration spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley confirmed the agreement. Jon Hamm, CEO of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, said that the language of the agreement encourages officers to take their banked furlough time before taking paid vacation.

The Brown administration had said that it wanted to avoid a policy that allowed banking furlough hours because that leads to employees taking less paid leave, creating a deferred cost for the state when the leave credits with monetary value are cashed out at the end of an employees' career.

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Votes on public pensions fuel calls for statewide change

Posted Jun 07, 2012

 


Tuesday's landslide pension reform votes in San Diego and San Jose were just the early tremors in what could become a public pension earthquake by the end of this month.

The big question: What does this mean for pension reform legislation at the Capitol?

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has floated a 12-point pension reform plan, told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter on Wednesday that the vote in liberal San Jose was "a very powerful signal" that pension reform is "an imperative" that he's putting "at the top of the agenda." Brown thinks pension reform will make his tax initiative more palatable to voters in November, although he hasn't talked about it much until now.

 

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Gov. Walker survives recall in Wisconsin

Posted Jun 06, 2012

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won a vote to keep his job on Tuesday, surviving a recall effort that turned the Republican into a conservative icon and his state into the first battleground in a bitter, expensive election year.

Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D). That made Walker the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election; two others had failed.

Exit polls showed that Democrats had captured nearly 69 percent of the voters who made up their minds in the past few days. But it wasn’t enough.

Instead, the night provided a huge boost for Walker — as well as Republicans in Washington and state capitals who have embraced the same energetic, austere brand of fiscal conservatism as a solution for recession and debt. In a state known for a strong progressive tradition, Walker defended his policies against the full force of the labor movement and the modern left.

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San Jose voters approve pension reforms

Posted Jun 06, 2012

San Jose voters Tuesday handed Mayor Chuck Reed a crucial victory with his nationally watched pension reform measure passing by a decisive margin.It was a big night for pension reform, with a San Diego measure also winning by a wide margin. City employee unions who argued the measures are illegal were expected to challenge both in court.

But voter approval of San Jose's Measure B puts Reed and the city in the vanguard of efforts to shrink taxpayer bills for generous government pension plans. Passage also strengthen's Reed's hand as he and his City Council allies work to enact the measure's reforms with a vote next week to reduce pensions for new hires.

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California state workers may face shorter workweeks, less pay

Posted May 15, 2012

 

Like his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown moved to trim state worker salaries Monday as a way to help cut a ballooning budget deficit.

Although many of the details still need to be hammered out with the unions, Brown proposed that workers lose a day's pay each month in a move that evoked memories of furlough days under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Under Brown's plan, state workers would switch to a four-day workweek, working 9.5 hours a day, or 38 hours a week, instead of the current five-day, 40-hour workweek. The change would cut workers' pay by 5 percent, saving the state $401 million in general fund costs.

Administration officials said they also expect to save money by closing buildings one day a week.

For weeks, the Brown administration has been talking to labor leaders about wringing savings from payroll. Brown did not say Monday whether union leaders had specifically suggested the shorter workweek but did say those discussions were considered in shaping the policy.

 

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Backlog at California's CalPERS fund worse than before new computer system launched

Posted Apr 18, 2012

The line at CalPERS' customer service window is getting longer.

After converting to a half-billion-dollar computer system to process benefits for hundreds of thousands of California public agency retirees last September, backlogs for some services are worse than before the project launched.

The new hardware and software installed by New York-based tech firm Accenture aimed to consolidate 49 old data systems into one when it launched last September, two years late at nearly twice its original $279 million budget. The California Public Employees' Retirement System committed another $6.8 million in December, bringing the total cost to $514 million. The money has come from CalPERS assets, currently valued at $234 billion.

Meanwhile, fund members have complained that a system intended to speed up service and boost efficiency has done the opposite.

 

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Legislative panel working on ‘hybrid’ pension

Posted Apr 11, 2012

SANTA ROSA — A two-house legislative committee is working with Gov. Brown’s Department of Finance on a ‘hybrid’ retirement plan for new state and local government hires, a committee member told a forum here last week.

Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, twice referred to a “cash balance” plan while talking about a cost-cutting hybrid, proposed by Brown, that combines a lower pension with a 401(k)-style individual investment plan.

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GAO Study Highlights Trends in Pension Reform, Challenges Nationwide

Posted Apr 04, 2012

A new study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office provides additional insight into the challenges facing not only California’s pension system, but also public pensions across the country.

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Untouchable Pensions May Be Tested in California

Posted Mar 19, 2012

   When the city manager of troubled Stockton, Calif., had to tell city council members why it was on track to become the biggest American city yet to go bankrupt, it took hours to get through the list.
   There was the free health care for retirees, the unpaid parking tickets, the revenue bonds without enough revenue to pay them. On it went, a grim drumbeat of practically every fiscal malady imaginable, except an obvious one: municipal pensions. Stockton is spending some $30 million a year to pay for them, but it has less than 70 cents set aside for every dollar of benefits its workers expect.
 

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Group suspends California public pension reform ballot effort

Posted Feb 09, 2012

The cause of pension reform in California took a significant body shot Wednesday when a group hoping to put an overhaul measure before voters this year suspended its campaign.

Beleaguered by fundraising problems and questions about the viability of its proposals, California Pension Reform shut down its efforts. The group's officials blamed the demise on a "false and misleading" summary of the plan by Attorney General Kamala Harris, a charge the Democrat denied.

The death of California Pension Reform's efforts also wounded Gov. Jerry Brown's pension proposals to the Democratic-controlled Legislature, one analyst said, by removing the threat of a more draconian measure going before voters.

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