From Whom The Money Flows

Why support must continue long after winning elections.

Pasted below are screenshots from opensecrets.org showing 2017–18 campaign committee* fundraising by the two most senior members of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the US House of Representatives. Until the Democrats flipped the House in November, Republican Kevin Brady was the Chairman and Democrat Richard Neal the Ranking Member (the most senior member of the minority party). After the flip, Neal is now the Chairman and Brady the Ranking Member. First let’s look at Brady’s fundraising…

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Could California pension system be underwater?

Rolling up big paper profits on stocks and other capital investments during 2017 and most of 2018 was very easy, and the California Public Employees Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension trust fund, took full advantage of the opportunity.

Its strong earnings, particularly in 2017, narrowed a yawning gap between its assets and future liabilities for pension payments to state and local government workers.

But it was short-lived and CalPERS has not only regressed but could actually be underwater because of a new way of calculating its liabilities.

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Rationalizing California's Corrections Compensation

Later this year California Governor Gavin Newsom will negotiate a new contract with state prison workers that must be approved by the legislature. The consequences are big, especially for discretionary programs supplied by the state’s General Fund.

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LAUSD’s Temporary Settlement

Earlier this week the Los Angeles Unified School District reached agreement with striking teachers. The settlement is at best temporary because structural issues were not addressed.

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Accretion of Discount

Those of you interested in state, local and school district pension obligations should add an esoteric phrase to your vocabularies: “Accretion of Discount.”

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AP: Strike or no strike, pensions problematic for LA schools

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Strike or no strike, after a deal is ultimately reached on a contract for Los Angeles teachers, the school district will still be on a collision course with deficit spending because of pensions and other financial obligations.

School systems across California are experiencing burdensome payments to the state pension fund while struggling to improve schools.

The problem is especially acute for districts like Los Angeles Unified that will see a financial hit in part because of steadily declining enrollment.

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LA Times: As teachers’ strike looms, L.A. schools aren’t failing us. We’re failing them

On the eve of a massively disruptive strike that would hit families at more than 900 schools, Los Angeles Unified teachers say they deserve a better deal on pay and working conditions.

The district has given some ground in recent days but argues that on at least the money issues, budget projections are grim despite a current reserve, and you can’t give away what you don’t have.

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Sacramento’s Silliest Subsidy

In December I turned 65 and became eligible for Medicare, the national health insurance program for people my age and older. Medicare is fantastic — and fantastically cheap — insurance. But, believe it or not, if I was a retired California state employee, I would also be entitled to a state-provided health insurance subsidy that this fiscal year will cost taxpayers $2.6 billion — more than double the cost ten years ago.

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Facts Matter: Spending Per California Student

If I had one wish for 2019 it would be that journalists and elected officials cite original sources of information about K-12 spending in California, a subject about which far too many too often cite unauthoritative sources.

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One Last Task For Jerry Brown

Prevent a strike at LAUSD

On January 7, Gavin Newsom will be sworn in as governor of California. On January 10, a strike has been scheduled by the LA teachers’ union (UTLA) against LA’s school system (LAUSD). A strike will impact 600,000 students — including many who get health and nutrition services at school — and their families plus the members of other unions that, unlike UTLA, have reached agreement with LAUSD.

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Kafka In LA

If ever you wanted a sense of the Kafkaesque world that often characterizes California politics, imagine yourself in the shoes of Austin Beutner, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

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LAUSD Revenues = $298,000 Per Teacher

Los Angeles Unified School District collected $7.2 billion in revenues in its 2017–18 fiscal year. That translates into $298,000 per teacher, 42 percent more than four years earlier…

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DIY!

Use the Internet, don’t blame it.

China’s government fears an Internet that exposes people to political truths. Today some in Congress fear an Internet that exposes people to political lies.

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UPDATE: Reform Medi-Cal To Reduce Poverty

Ten years ago, California’s Department of Social Services — whose mission is “to serve, aid, and protect needy and vulnerable children and adults” — received nearly $10 billion, which was 10 percent of the General Fund that year:

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San Francisco Chronicle: Voters draw the line against gerrymandering

Arnold Schwarzenegger was not on the ballot in the midterms, but the former California governor’s influence was apparent in the outcome of reform initiatives in Michigan, Missouri, Colorado and Utah. Those four states were the 2018 battlegrounds in Schwarzenegger’s campaign to have independent commissions, rather than politicians in power, draw congressional boundaries after the 2020 census.

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California's Incredible Prison Spending

This year California’s governor and state legislature are choosing to spend $15 billion on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which incarcerates 127,000 prisoners. 

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Marin Magazine: 8 Questions for David Crane

David Crane’s resume is a varied and illustrious one. He was a partner at Babcock & Brown, a global investment firm, for 24 years, then went on to serve as a special adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2004 to 2010. Now Crane lectures in public policy at Stanford University, serves on the board of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, and is president of Govern for California, an organization of more than 250 politically informed philanthropists supporting state legislators who put citizen interests ahead of party or personal concerns. Some legislators vow publicly to support job creation, students and social justice, but vote against those priorities under pressure from special-interest groups. In backing legislators dedicated to honest budgets and open government, Govern for California aims to improve schools and health care, fix pension problems, fund parks and environmental protection, protect tax revenues from special interests, and in general make government work.

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$200 Billion

Now that Governor Brown has acted on all 1,217 bills sent him by the legislature, we are turning our attention to the 2019 legislative session. One GFC focus will be improving the quality of services provided Californians. Below is a overview of two of the most important services.

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Federal Reserve Tells A Big Truth

On September 20 the Federal Reserve recognized a truth long covered up by California's public pension funds.

In its latest quarterly Financial Accounts report the Fed revised its measure of unfunded pension liabilities owed by state and local governments to $4.1 trillion, more than double the amount previously reported.

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