Explaining Southern California's economy

San Bernardino bankruptcy: How hard will CalPERS fight for its money?

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A sign stands in front of California Public Employees' Retirement System building. CalPERS is trying to prevent bankrupt cities from evading pension obligations.

Last week, Moody's, the rating agency, released a note about the ongoing San Bernardino bankruptcy and the city's pension obligations to CalPERS. According to Moody's, San Bernardino's total unfunded pension liability far outstrips it other municipal debt. 

San Bernardino declared bankruptcy in July, after the city council revealed that it barely had enough money to keep the lights on. A big question in the bankruptcy has been whether the city will attempt to reduce or discharge its CalPERS liabilities. As Moody's pointed out, neither Vallejo, which went into Chapter 9 in 2008 and emerged in 2011, nor Stockton, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year, sought concessions from CalPERS. In Vallejo's case, other creditors took a substantial haircut. 

CalPERS maintains that pension obligations can't legally be reduced in bankruptcy. That hasn't stopped San Bernardino from ceasing payments, to the tune of $6 million. CalPERS is now disputing San Bernardino's Chapter 9 eligibility, according to Moody's, and is threatening to do away with the city's pension plan. This would expose San Bernardino to a bigger pension payment, due immediately. 


California tackles the looming retirement crisis — but will it be enough?

CA Governor Jerry Brown Holds News Conference On Pension Reform

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California Gov. Jerry Brown discusses pension reform during a news conference in Los Angeles. The governor just signed a bill that would create a retirement plan for millions of workers in the state who don't currently have access to one.

There's no debate that Americans aren't saving enough for retirement. The average nest egg for 65-year-olds is just over $65,000. Saving enough for retirement has become more difficult as old-school pension plans have given way to 401(k)-type plans that shift the burden of risk to employees. But California has come up with a way to address this problem.

For 6.3 million Californians.

Gov. Brown just signed into law SB 1234, the "California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust." The bill was co-sponsored by state Sen. Kevin de Léon (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. It creates a private-sector retirement plan for the aforementioned 6.3 million private-sector workers who currently don't have access to a retirement plan through their jobs.

"I'm ecstatic," de Léon said. "Much of the middle class is shut out of retirement security, and the signing of this bill shows that retirement security isn't just for the elite."


NFL refs lockout: A $10 billion league versus $16 million in labor demands

Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers

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Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers argues with referees during their game against the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park on September 16, 2012 in San Francisco, California. On Monday night, the replacement refs may have lost the Green Bay Packers a game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Had enough yet? NFL players, coaches, and fans seem pretty fed up, after a controversial conclusion to Monday night's game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. Touchdown? Interception? "Simultaneous catch?" 

The replacement referees brought in while the regular refs are locked out in a labor dispute were disoriented by it all, but it's not as if we haven't been warned and warned and warned some more that something like this was happening. The question is: Will the NFL budge on the lockout, now that the nightmare scenario — potentially botched call that costs a team the game in the final seconds — has come to pass?

The numbers on the refs' side are all...rather small, relatively speaking. True, average pay is about $150,000 a year. But there are less than 200 NFL refs, and in a league that's looking for $10 billion in annual revenues by next season, with $12-$14 billion in sight, you'd think that such a small group with such a large impact in the overall package could command more. Especially when you consider that in 2011 the NFL wrapped up a $3-billion-per-year extension to its TV deal.