by David Kersten
The LA Times and CalMatters deserve a lot of credit for deciding to dig deep to investigate the roots, causes and consequences of California's pension debt.
Without a doubt, the pension problem is the biggest public policy issue in California. The Kersten Institute has made the problem a major priority, and even created an independent multimedia series call Insolvent Film in the Spring of 2016 to analyze and address the issue (www.insolventfilm.com).
The initial report titled "The Pension Gap" takes a dive into the origins and history of the pension debt which goes back to SB 400. The article includes interviews and comments from some of the key players including Sen. Debra Ortiz, author of the measure, former CalPERS actuary Ron Seeling, and others.
A side bar article, titled "Understanding California's Pension Debt," explains the magnitude of the state's pension debt.
Here is the description of the new LA Times project and links to their first two pieces, which are excellent and a big contribution to the roots of SB 400 and the origins of the problem:
"The Los Angeles Times is collaborating with CALmatters, a nonprofit journalism venture, and Capital Public Radio to explore the consequences of an historic expansion of retirement benefits for California public employees.
A series of pension enhancements, beginning with a 1999 law known as SB 400, has created a huge gap between the state’s obligations to current and future retirees and the capacity of public pension funds to pay them.
Future articles will examine the impact of pension costs on local governments, the politics of pension reform and related subjects.
CALmatters, based in Sacramento, publishes explanatory journalism on state policy and politics. It is supported by foundations, companies and individual donors, all of whom must agree to respect the group’s editorial independence.
Capital Public Radio, also in Sacramento, is a donor-supported organization that distributes its journalism to outlets across California."
Links to initial reports:
The Pension Gap, LA Times Investigative Report, Sept. 18, 2016.
Understanding California's Pension Debt, LA Times, Sept. 18, 2016.