Watch last night’s city council meeting

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CalPERS is shocked – just shocked – to find cities reeling under the burden of growing pension debt

By Steven Greenhut | The California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s union defenders feign shock whenever pension reformers accuse it of “kicking the can down the road” in dealing with the state’s mounting pension debt. It’s like the scene from Casablanca, when Captain Louis Renault is absolutely shocked to find gambling going on in a gambling house.

Steven GreenhutCalPERS is never going to state the obvious: “We know these massive, underfunded pensions are not sustainable, but we’re going to do everything possible to push the problem into the future and blame everyone else for the problem.” But the pension fund’s board might as well have said as much after two actions it took at last week’s Sacramento meeting.

In one case, it decided to seek a legislative sponsor for a bill that would enable it to shift the blame to local agencies whenever such agencies decide to stop making their payments to the fund and retiree pensions are cut as a result. In the second case, at the urging of cities CalPERS decided to delay a vote on a more actuarially sound means of paying off pension debt – rather than risk a fifth rate hike to local governments, and risk a mutiny among hard-pressed local governments.

Both of these actions maintain the status quo and – you got it – kick the can down the road.

To read the entire column on the California Policy Center website, please click here.

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Tonight’s city council meeting agenda

The AgendaTo read or download tonight’s detailed council meeting agenda, click here (pdf).

The public participation portion of the meeting begins at 6:30 with presentations and awards. Actual city business normally doesn’t start until 7:00 or thereafter.

And you can always watch it on cable Channel 3 (Spectrum — formerly Time Warner).

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Nothing that comes from government is free

By Jon Coupal | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a Walt Disney classic from 1966 starring Dick Van Dyke as a quirky inventor who turns a broken-down Grand Prix car into a magical flying machine. Along with his two young children, they soar off to a fantasy land with the mission of rescuing the beloved grandfather being held in a strange make-believe city.

A weekly column by Jon CoupalThere’s a particularly creepy scene in the movie where the diabolical villain lures the two kids from their hiding place. He walks down the street yelling out, “Ice cream. Get some ice cream! Today, it’s all free!” The children can’t resist and they emerge from a building to get into a carriage where they are promised the sweets. Once inside, the curtains fall from the side of the carriage to reveal they have walked into a metal cage.

I was reminded of this scene when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 19, which mandates freshmen at California’s community colleges be given free tuition. The legislation, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, would expand the current fee waiver for low-income students. The new grant would waive the first year of fees for all first-time, full-time students attending a California community college, regardless of need.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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What the GOP tax bill will mean for Californians

Further analysis by Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who was a guest yesterday on KFI Radio’s John and Ken Show:

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Fullerton City Hall is closed today for another three-day weekend

City Hall Closure Dates

January – 1*, 2*, 13, 27
February – 10, 20*, 24
March – 10, 24
April – 7, 21
May – 5, 19, 29*
June – 2, 16, 30
July – 4*, 14, 28
August – 11, 25
September – 4*, 8, 22
October – 6, 20
November – 3, 10*, 17, 23*, 24*
December – 1, 15, 25*, 26*, 31*

*Holiday observed

Fullerton City Hall

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California Supreme Court: Special Taxes Are Special

The topic Sunday on The Maddy Report was “California Supreme Court: Special Taxes Are Special” with guests Liam Dillon of the Los Angeles Times; Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association; Dan Walters with CalMatters; and John Myers of the Los Angeles Times. The show’s host is Mark Keppler, executive director of the Maddy Institute.

The Maddy Report is a weekly public affairs TV program covering how state and federal policy and politics impact California, generally, and the San Joaquin Valley, in particular. It is broadcast on KFSN ABC 30 (in the Valley), on the Cal Channel (statewide), and on Charter Communications (Southern California).

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California’s public pension crisis is bad and getting worse

California’s two major public pension systems — CalPERS and CalSTRS — are underfunded and are asking local governments like the City of Fullerton to pay more to cover the gap:

(Emily Zentner / The Sacramento Bee)
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Repeal gas tax or end revenue for road repairs? It’s the same ballot measure

Gas tax ballot measureBy Bob Egelko | The future of California’s new fuel tax — 12 cents a gallon for gasoline, 20 cents for diesel fuel — is likely to go before the voters in November 2018. What’s less clear is whether the official title on the state ballot pamphlet, an important source of voter information, will start by saying it “repeals taxes” or “eliminates … revenues” for transportation and road repair.

Both descriptions are accurate. Which one will accompany a Republican-sponsored initiative to repeal the tax, as of January 2019, is a question now before a state appeals court in Sacramento. The justices must weigh their duty to inform the voters against the authority provided by law to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose office prepares the title and summary for every proposed ballot measure.

To read the entire story in the San Francisco Chronicle, please click here.

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Out-of-control pension costs could doom local governments across California

By Andrea Seastrand | With unemployment is at its lowest point in a decade and a stock market at all-time highs, this is not a time when we would expect to see California local governments like the city of Oroville flirting with bankruptcy.

Today, we stand years removed from the worst part of the Great Recession when governments across the country were forced to make drastic cuts to public services due to the collapsing economy. However, local governments will soon be facing similar difficult decisions about layoffs and cuts to vital services but for a very different reason: public employee pensions.

The ticking time bomb of unfunded pension liabilities — the difference between what has been set aside and what will need to be paid to public workers when they retire — is creating one of the biggest financial threats to ever hit local governments across California.

Pensions are paid for by contributions from public employers, employees and investment income. However, some bad bets by the state’s two main pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTERS, and a rapid expansion of pension benefits in the late ‘90s has left us with the current situation where public employers must now ramp up their payments to make up the difference. That means taxpayers will be getting the bill.

This problem is hitting us right here at home and is bringing local cities and agencies to their knees.

To read the entire column, please click here.

[Andrea Seastrand is a former U.S. Representative for California's 22nd House District, a longtime grassroots activist and is currently president of the Central Coast Taxpayers Association. Her column runs in the San Luis Obispo Tribune every other Sunday.]

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