May 7, 2014 - This report categorizes and provides information about $340 billion in California's key retirement, infrastructure, and budgetary liabilities. In addition, this report provides a framework for the Legislature to consider in prioritizing repayment of these liabilities and makes recommendations on which liabilities to pay down first and how the state could address such costs in the future. In general, we suggest that the Legislature prioritize actions to pay down those liabilities (1) with relatively high interest rates or (2) that result in benefits for groups or entities other than the state government. Due to its massive unfunded liability and relatively high growth rate, we recommend that the Legislature make a full funding plan for the California State Teachers' Retirement System a top priority in addressing the state's key liabilities.
March 10, 2020 - Over the next decade, the state will be required to allocate an additional $12 billion to $21 billion to accelerate the pay down of state retirement liabilities under the provisions of Proposition 2 (2014). This represents a key and unique opportunity for the state. The Governor offers one strategy to prioritize these funds over the next few years. Notably, the Governor focuses on the state’s share of the unfunded liability for teachers’ pensions. While we agree this focus makes sense, the amounts the Governor proposes dedicating to this purpose are not connected to the specific actuarial needs of the teachers’ pension system. In this report, we present a method the Legislature could use to tie these payments to the system’s actual needs, which would better target the funding.
February 23, 2017 - Proposition 2 (2014) requires the state to make: (1) minimum annual payments toward certain eligible debts and (2) deposits into the state’s rainy day fund. This publication outlines alternatives to the Governor’s proposals that could free up General Fund resources. It also addresses whether the Legislature can access funds from state’s rainy day reserve under the measure’s budget emergency provisions.
May 16, 2017 -
As part of his May Revision, the Governor proposes the state borrow $6 billion from the Pooled Money Investment Account (PMIA) to make a one-time payment to reduce state pension liabilities at CalPERS. The Governor proposes that the state and General Fund and special funds repay this loan with interest over a period of about eight years.
As we discuss in this brief, we think the plan would probably save the state money over the long run, although uncertainties remain about the likelihood and magnitude of this benefit. However, the administration is asking the Legislature to approve a large commitment of public resources with insufficient consideration. The administration has provided few of the legal or quantitative analyses that the Legislature should expect when receiving a request of this magnitude and complexity. Moreover, the administration has introduced this proposal as part of the May Revision—with only weeks before the constitutional deadline for the Legislature to approve the budget. We doubt all of the issues we raise in the brief can be reviewed by the June 15 deadline. However, there is no reason that the Legislature must make a decision before June 15. We recommend the Legislature wait to act on this plan until after the administration has submitted more analysis. At that point, the Legislature could decide whether or not to approve the proposal.
March 16, 2015 - Health benefits for retired state employees constitute a large and growing cost for the State of California. The state’s retiree health benefit program constitutes the state’s last major liability that needs a funding plan. As part of his 2015-16 budget, the Governor proposes one approach to address retiree health liabilities through the collective bargaining process. In our report, we recommend that the policy committees of the Legislature hold hearings to discuss the Governor’s proposal—as well as other options to address retiree health liabilities—with actuaries, employee groups, policy experts, and the public. We acknowledge that a delay in implementing a funding plan might make some elements of a funding plan more expensive; however, we think it is more important to get the plan right that to quickly set up a plan that can be implemented in 2015-16.
April 4, 2018 - The 2017-18 budget package authorized a plan to borrow $6 billion from the Pooled Money Investment Account—an account that is essentially the state’s checking account—to make a one-time supplemental payment to the California Public Employees' Retirement System. All funds that make pension payments will repay the loan over the next decade or so. Authorizing legislation gives the administration some discretion over how funds will repay the loan, but the statute includes a variety of repayment requirements. In our view, while the basic elements of the administration’s repayment plan are reasonable, we have serious concerns about some choices the administration made. To address these concerns, in this report, we recommend a modified repayment approach that would: (1) be consistent with the authorizing legislation, (2) allocate repayment costs across funds appropriately and publicly, and (3) provide incentives to create more cost-effective outcomes.
February 17, 2006 - The costs of providing health care to retired state employees and their dependents—now approaching $1 billion per year—are increasing significantly. Many other public employers (including the University of California, school districts, cities, and counties) face similar pressures. This report discusses health benefits provided to retired public employees, focusing on state retirees. We find that the current method of funding these benefits defers payment of these costs to future generations. Retiree health liabilities soon will be quantified under new accounting standards, but state government liabilities are likely in the range of $40 billion to $70 billion-and perhaps more. This report describes actions that the Legislature could take to address these costs.
December 21, 2017 - Our recent Fiscal Outlook publication considers potential future requirements under Proposition 2 (2014)—including required rainy day fund deposits and payments toward certain state debts. Some have asked whether Proposition 2 debt funding payments can be used to reduce liabilities of teacher and other public employees' pension plans. As we discuss in this post, there may be little ongoing capacity to make additional commitments from Proposition 2 debt funding payments through the mid-2020s.
October 17, 2019 - This post describes the debt and liability payments made as part of the 2019-20 budget package.
March 30, 2016 - Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration and General Government
May 17, 2019 - This report presents our office’s independent assessment of the condition of the state General Fund budget through 2022-23 assuming the economy continues to grow and all of the Governor’s May Revision spending proposals are adopted.
March 20, 2013 - Last year, the Legislature asked CalSTRS to submit a report detailing at least three options for addressing the unfunded liabilities of the pension system's Defined Benefit (DB) Program, which are now estimated by system actuaries to total about $70 billion. This handout for the Legislature's Public Employment and Retirement Committees (1) describes the risks of waiting to address CalSTRS' unfunded liabilities, (2) compares CalSTRS' unfunded liabilities to California's other long-term liabilities, (3) and examines possible sources for additional funding. We recommend that the Legislature adopt a plan that aims to fully fund CalSTRS' unfunded liabilities in about 30 years. A companion video further explains our findings and recommendations.
February 23, 2006 - In our Analysis of the 2005-06 Budget Bill, we discussed the range of fiscal issues facing school districts. These included low general purpose reserves, internal borrowing from self-insurance funds, and falling state revenues due to declining enrollment. We also discussed the long-term challenge created by new accounting requirements on retiree health benefits. The financial health of districts has not improved significantly, and may have even worsened somewhat, over the past year. Here we deepen our discussion of the impact of the new accounting requirements on K-12 school districts and reiterate our recommendations for ensuring that districts address retiree health liabilities. We also provide the Legislature with an option to help improve district financial conditions through a fiscal solvency block grant, which would give districts flexible funds to address the broad range of fiscal problems encountered locally.