MOORLACH UPDATE — OC METRO — April 14, 2010

My college student son, while taking a break from his studies, found that I was mentioned in this month’s edition of the OC METRO. 

I was included in Bill Lobdell’s monthly “Perspective” column (http://www.ocmetro.com/t-Perspective_public_employees_retirement0410.aspx).

Bill is venting frustrations that have now become vogue in the journalistic industry, even using the term “tsunami.”

The website www.PensionTsunami.com provides a daily clipping service of articles on the topic of retirement benefits.  A few years ago there would be two or three articles around the country and globe per day.  There are now more than a dozen articles per day.

One minor clarification to Bill’s observations.  We were able to reduce our unfunded retiree medical liability by about $1 billion (versus our unfunded actuarially accrued pension liability).  It’s a great story that is an encouragement to electeds with other municipalities.  But, it takes political strength and will to accomplish such a fiscal move.

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Perspective

Sinking the state – Will public employee pensions bankrupt California?

By William Lobdell

I’ve attended two retirement parties in recent months. Both of my friends were all of 50 years old. They retired with 90 percent of their final annual pay and a generous health-care package. They were public employees.

    I’m turning 50 later this year, and my retirement is nowhere in sight. In fact, because of the economy, I’ve recently had to use some of the money I’d socked away for my golden years just to pay some bills.

    I’m mad as hell, and I’m going to have to take it some more. No one seems to want to stop the insanity of handing out unsustainable public pensions in California; instead, we taxpayers just sink deeper into debt.

    Californians have totaled at least $237 billion in debt in funding retired public workers, though the actual figure may be north of a half-trillion dollars. We’ve racked up that debt in little more than a decade, when the state Legislature passed a law that allowed California Highway Patrol officers to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their pay. The formula was soon adopted by other public employee unions.

    If not radically reformed, California’s public pension scam will come to a grinding halt. Taxpayers simply can’t fund two sets of public employees (the lower-paid group and the higher-paid set of retirees).

    So far, the politicians – and the public unions that intimidate them – have done little to fix the pending disaster. There’s a financial tsunami off shore that everyone can see, but our politicians – and the public – keep splashing on the sunscreen and sipping on Coronas.

    Here’s a typical response from a union official (bold emphasis is mine):

    “We’re all for anything that shores up the retirement system and makes sure we can guarantee the promises we made to employees,” said Terry Brennand, senior government relations advocate for the California State Council of Service Employees International Union, in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News.

    Guarantees in business aren’t what they used to be. Promises should be kept to any employee, but reality happens. Many in the private sector have been laid off, had their health coverage reduced, had their employer stop making contributions to their 401(k) or had their retirement funds stolen.

    In O.C., Supervisor John Moorlach – a CPA who predicted the county’s bankruptcy – has led the effort to dig out of the pension hole, taking more than $1 billion from the county’s $1.4 billion unfunded liability.

    The state gubernatorial candidates promise pension reform, with the Republicans offering to raise the retirement age and switch to a 401(k) plan. These are common-sense solutions, but common sense has so far been a stranger to this issue.

    I have other friends my age who went into public service, and I’ll be attending more retirement parties. They won the career lottery and will have roughly four decades to take up new hobbies, travel, start a new career, visit children and grandchildren, sit on the beach, read, write or volunteer.

    The rest of us do not have those options. We will keep working. And we will keep accumulating billions – and maybe trillions – in state debt caused by the public retirement system until our collective back breaks under the weight.
   
Until then, have a Corona on me.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

April 14

1990

The OC Register announced the good news:  “OC Fair wagering plan is shelved – Board defuses fight with Costa Mesa.”  The reporter was Charles Finnie.  The topic resembles recent events in some ways.

                Moving to avoid a legislative fight with the city, Orange County Fair officials Friday asked a local assemblyman to withdraw a proposed bill to allow a betting parlor at the fairgrounds.

                Assemblyman Gil Ferguson, R – Newport Beach, had agreed to sponsor a bill wanted by the fair’s board of directors to bring satellite wagering to the fairgrounds.

                But residents who oppose satellite wagering and have fought the fairgrounds on other issues, particularly over operation of the 18,000-seat Pacific Amphitheatre, remain skeptical of the fair board’s intentions.

                John Moorlach, president of the Costa Mesa Republican Assembly, applauded the decision to withdraw the bill.  The Republican group in March passed a resolution of its own opposing the betting parlor on moral grounds.

                “That is great news – for this year,” Moorlach said.  “But I think they’ll be back next year.  They just better have a real good reason to do it.”

2000

Chris Reed covered the “Health-spending initiative off to strong start – More than 50,000 sign up for measure on use of tobacco windfall” topic in the OC Register.

                The campaign to place an initiative on the November ballot forcing Orange County to spend 80 percent of its tobacco-settlement windfall on health is off to a roaring start, organizers said.

                Many observers, including Treasurer John Moorlach, say the health initiative’s prospects could be boosted by the same anti-board sentiment evident in Measure F’s easy win last month.

                That measure has blocked the board majority’s push for an El Toro airport.

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