In his latest budget proposal, California Governor Jerry Brown, who continues to vehemently pursue various multi-billion dollar pet projects like the high-speed rail and the so-called "Delta Water Fix" despite his state teetering on the brink of insolvency, has finally admitted that CalPERS, California's public pension system, is a total disaster.
Apparently Brown finally came to the realization that a 65% funding ratio is slightly less than ideal, especially since we're on the precipice of a massive wave of Baby Boomer retirements, and warned that the "state’s contributions to CalPERS are on track to nearly double by fiscal year 2023?24."
As of June 30, 2016, CalPERS reported that the state plans’ unfunded liability totals $59.5 billion and is 65 percent funded, meaning that CalPERS only has 65 percent of the funding required to make pension payments to state retirees.
Without the supplemental payment, by 2023?24, the state’s contribution is estimated to reach $9.2 billion ($5.3 billion General Fund), due to anticipated payroll growth and the lower assumed investment rate of return.
But don't worry, it's nothing that a little extra taxpayer-funded bribe to organized labor can't fix...how does an extra $6 billion sound?...is that sufficient to buy your votes for a few more election cycles?
The May Revision includes a one?time $6 billion supplemental payment to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) in 2017?18. This action effectively doubles the state’s annual payment and will mitigate the impact of increasing pension contributions due to the state’s large unfunded liabilities and the CalPERS Board’s recent action to lower its assumed investment rate of return from 7.5 percent to 7 percent.
And for those who might be worried that a doubling of California's annual pension contributions seems like a huge burden for taxpayers to absorb...fear not, because they've basically already doubled over the past 5 years...so Brown has experience in "managing" such catastrophes.
Moreover, once we get to 2030 the whole problem just kind of magically fixes itself.
Of course, as we noted last December (see "CalPERS Board Votes To Maintain Ponzi Scheme With Only 50bps Reduction Of Discount Rate") the above contribution forecast is nothing but a pipe dream as even CalPERS' own finance committee chair admits that the pension's discount rate still needs to come down materially from the current level of 7%. Per our prior post:
A few weeks ago we asked whether CalPERS would rely on sound financial judgement and math to set their rate of return expectations going forward or whether they would cave to political pressure to maintain artificially high return hurdles that they'll never meet but help to maintain their ponzi scheme a little longer (see "CalPERS Weighs Pros/Cons Of Setting Reasonable Return Targets Vs. Maintaining Ponzi Scheme"). The decision faced by CALPERS was whether their long-term assumed rate of return on assets should be lowered from the current 7.5% down to a more reasonable 6%. Well, we now have our answer and it seems the board erred on the side of maintaining the ponzi with a decision to reduce the fund's discount rate by only 50 bps, to 7%, to be phased in over 3 years.
While a 50bps decrease to a 7% discount rate will still trigger roughly $1 billion in incremental annual contributions from various California government entities according to Eric Stern of the California Department of Finance, it is still a long way from the fund's estimated returns of just 6.2% over the next decade which happens to match exactly their returns from the past decade.
Meanwhile, Richard Costigan, chairman of the CalPERS finance committee, who vowed that "this is just a start," more or less admits that the decision was politically motivated to allow "municipalities and other government agencies some breathing room before they absorb the impact."
Of course, you could never get re-elected if you told the whole truth...