Trendline Shows Continued Fiscal Stress on Public Employee Benefit System

Posted on May 24th, 2007 — in Economy and Business :: Health Care :: Social Policy

About 15% of the state’s workforce is employed by state and local government. According to a recent report by the California Research Bureau, 22% of those are state employees and 78% work for counties, cities, school districts, and special districts. There are four million members in the state’s public retirement systems. Most California public employees (79%) are members either of CalPERS, CalSTRS, or the UC Retirement System.

According to the CRB, federal government accounting standards recently adopted for OPEBs (health care and employment benefits other than pension plans) indicate that California’s OPEB liabilities over the next several years are likely to be in the $40-70 billion range, or even more than that.

An anticipated increase in the number of retiring public employees, questions about the optimistic assumptions actuarial valuators are making about future health care costs, and other demographic and economic trends (including a decrease in the number of and participation in defined-benefit plans) point to continuing and escalating fiscal stress on the state’s public employee post-employment benefits system.

Funding the Golden Years in the Golden State: An Overview of Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits and Recent Concerns about How to Provide and Pay for Them [California Research Bureau]

LAO Warns That Governor’s Estimated Budget Reserves Are Overstated

Posted on May 23rd, 2007 — in State Budget

A Legislative Analyst’s Office report on the Governor’s May budget revisions concludes that the revisions overstate the state’s reserves by $1.7 billion, leaving a real estimated reserve of $529 million. The report adds, “Even this reserve level would be subject to considerable risks and pressures.”

Overview of the 2007-2008 May Revision [Legislative Analyst's Office]

The Fire Season Begins, with Nary a Drop of Water in Sight

Posted on May 11th, 2007 — in Resources and Environment :: State Disasters and Emergencies

The New West Notes blog notes that snowpack levels are at their lowest in 20 years (the statewide average snowpack level is currently 26%). Meanwhile, the state’s fire season seems to have already begun in earnest (although fire declarations haven’t been formally issued yet, the fires aren’t waiting for them), with a 4000-acre blaze on Santa Catalina Island forcing the evacuation of nearly 4000 residents off the island, another fire burning up nearly a quarter of Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and a third set of fires in the Central Valley town of Clovis stretching the town’s firefighting resources to their limits.

New West Notes points to the recent tornado disaster in southern Kansas and observes that the outflow to Iraq of National Guard equipment and resulting shortage of that equipment for use in disasters is not limited to the Sunflower State.

Meanwhile, the governor proclaimed this week Wildfire Awareness Week, and Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Murrieta) is trying to move AB 791, which would put several state agencies, including CAL FIRE, under a coordinated umbrella agency to be called the California Public Safety Agency (CPSA).

Weekly Statewide Fire Statistics [California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection]

May Budget Revisions to Be Released on May 14

Posted on May 11th, 2007 — in Economy and Business :: State Budget

The governor’s office will release what are commonly known as the “May revisions” to the January state budget submission on Monday.

A California Budget Project report issued a couple of weeks ago contained some pessimistic analysis of what is likely to come out of the revisions.


Contradictory Views on K-12 Public Education in California

Posted on May 11th, 2007 — in Education :: Polls and Surveys

A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll indicates that 52% of all California residents believe that the quality of K-12 public education in the state is a “big problem,” but the same percentage also believe that their local public schools rate an A or a B.

Residents in the San Francisco Bay Area (58%) and the Inland Empire (57%) are more likely to view public schools as a “big problem” than those in Los Angeles (50%), the Central Valley (48%), or Orange and San Diego Counties (44%).

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Education, April 2007 [Public Policy Institute of California]

Statistics on California’s Small Businesses

Posted on May 3rd, 2007 — in Economy and Business :: Growth, Development & Infrastructure

According to a recent report from the California Research Bureau, in 2004 (the year for which most recent data are available), California had 696,300 “employer firms” (which is Census Bureau-ese for small businesses). Of these, 99% had under 500 employees, 97 had under 100 employees, and 60% had under 5 employees. Firms with fewer than 100 employees provided 38% of the state’s labor force employment.

Other data from the report: 

An Update on Small Businesses [California Research Bureau]