Entries by Marc Joffe

A Progressive Take on Public Pensions

While the public pension crisis has been an issue on the right for many years, left-wing thinkers show relatively little interest in the issue. When progressives do opine on pensions, they often reject the alarm expressed by conservatives, seeing it as a smokescreen for unneeded austerity or a way to attack the public sector. In […]

California Fire Districts are Morphing into Retirement Plans

The East Contra Costa Fire District (ECCFD) has financial problems because it pays more for retirement benefits than it does in salaries to current employees. With most of its staff eligible to retire on the 3% at 50 formula and at least two current retirees receiving more than $100,000 annually, the district is functioning as […]

Contracting With OC Sheriff Means Buying Into Expensive Union Benefits

Thirteen of Orange County’s 34 cities contract their policing services to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Contracting out services can save cities the hassles and costs of dealing with their own unionized workforces. But when Orange County cities contract with the County Sheriff, they are absorbing the high cost of OC’s unionized law enforcement. The […]

Contracting With OC Sheriff Means Buying Into Expensive Union Benefits

Thirteen of Orange County’s 34 cities contract their policing services to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Contracting out services can save cities the hassles and costs of dealing with their own unionized workforces. But when Orange County cities contract with the County Sheriff, they are absorbing the high cost of OC’s unionized law enforcement. The […]

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Wanted: An Early Warning System for Local Governments

This article originally appeared in The Capitol Weekly. Back in 2012, then Treasurer Bill Lockyer called for an early warning system that would give state officials time to proactively address local government fiscal emergencies before they wound up in bankruptcy court. We are now five years closer to the next recession and its attendant set of […]

BART’s Wasteful Union Contracts

Last week we learned that a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system janitor managed to boost his annual compensation to $271,000 by clocking an enormous number of overtime hours – hours that apparently were often devoted to sleeping in a subway station closet. The revelation reminds Bay Area commuters that BART’s unreliable service comes with […]

California City and County Fiscal Strength Index – 2017 Update

Relative to earlier years and their peers in other states, most California city and county governments were in good financial condition at the end of fiscal year 2015. California Policy Center’s study of audited financial statements and socioeconomic indicators show widespread fiscal strength, but a few trouble spots as well. Our analysis extends a fiscal […]

Orange County Fire Authority’s Hefty Overtime Bill a Bad Deal for Irvine Taxpayers

Irvine’s City Council has directed city staff to explore the possibility of leaving the Orange County Fire Authority in 2020. The Council wants to find a more cost effective way to provide fire protection services to city residents. If Irvine can find an alternative that constrains firefighter compensation – especially overtime pay– it may be on the right […] […]

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High Speed Rail Won’t Impact Climate Change

According to the high speed rail authority’s website, the bullet train is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by just over one million metric tons annually by 2040. This reduction is supposed to be achieved by replacing almost 10 million miles of motor vehicle travel each day, and eliminating between 93 and 171 daily flights. But […]

Double Dipping at the Public Pension Trough

On December 30, the Los Angeles Times reported that James Mussenden, the retired city manager of El Monte, raised his total annual cash pension benefit to $216,000 by using a Supplementary Retirement Plan from Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS). The PARS plan is not unique to El Monte: if the leadership of any public agency […]

In California, Innovation Ends at the Water Tap

Despite being the home to many of the world’s great startups, California’s approach to its water shortage has been anything but entrepreneurial. The triumph of bureaucracy over entrepreneurship is epitomized by the December 22 release of the state’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan Environmental Impact Review (EIR). The document, characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle as […]

Dallas Pension System Crisis: Could It Be Repeated in California?

Despite a strong national economy and rallying stock market, the city of Dallas faces a pension funding crisis that has triggered fears of a municipal bankruptcy. Can something similar happen in California? Dallas’ Police and Fire Pension System (DPFP) was already teetering at the beginning of 2016, when its actuarial valuation report showed a funded […]

Fat Pensions and Dubious Results at California Community Colleges

Among progressive politicians, community colleges have recently taken on an iconic status. These are the scrappy institutions battling income inequality one mind at a time – helping lift underprivileged young strivers into the middle class. The result has been a drive to subsidize these schools, often without regard to their cost-effectiveness. Among the beneficiaries are retired community […]

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Teachers’ Unions Spend Over $27 Million on State Races

In a recent op-ed, California Federation of Teachers (CFT) President Joshua Pechthalt calls out special interests for pouring money into California elections in support of charter schools. He writes: The charter association spent better than $24 million in relatively few races this year. Oakland, where previously $20,000 was a lot of money for […] Continue […]

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Who’s Going to Pay for Trump’s Huge Infrastructure Plans?

A rare point of agreement between President-Elect Trump and Congressional Democrats is that America has an infrastructure deficit: The nation’s transportation, power, water and sewerage facilities are too often outdated and unable to reliably serve a growing population. But while the diagnosis crosses party lines, solutions are more controversial. Democrats may not be too worried […]

Will Taxpayers get Shafted in the Latest Chapter 9 Bankruptcy?

When a government files for bankruptcy, bondholders, employees and vendors typically fight for a share of the agency’s assets. But what about taxpayers? Shouldn’t their interests also be considered by the bankruptcy court judge? This is the question we hope will be answered in California’s newest Chapter 9 bankruptcy, that of the West Contra Costa Healthcare […]