Tight money

Jul 13, 2012

The nation's second-largest public pension fund, the California State Teachers' Retirement System, reported poor results on its investment return. The disclosure is all but certain to set off a new round of scrutiny on the fund.


From the AP's Judy Lin in the Mercury News: "The expected return for the nation's second-largest public pension system had been 7.5 percent, which was lowered earlier this year from 7.75 percent."


"The fund earned the return for the fiscal year that ended June 30, said Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of the California State Teachers' Retirement System. "The fact that it's a positive return is nice, but the fact that it's so low ... I'm sure will generate attacks" from public pension critics, Aliman told board members."


"The pension fund manages retirement money for more than 600,000 active and retired teachers and has about $64.5 billion in unfunded liabilities. Ailman said the $150 billion fund has been impacted by economic uncertainties worldwide and the swings of the stock market."


A new group has been set up to oppose Molly Munger's Proposition 38 tax initiative and -- surprise! -- many of the people in the new effort are backing Jerry Brown's rival measure, Prop. 30.


From Anthony York at the LAT: "The new committee has yet to list any donors but, according to filings with the Secretary of State’s office, Sacramento Democratic political consultant Jason Kinney and James T. Hay, president of the California Medical Assn., are both listed as officers."


"The group also submitted ballot arguments against Proposition 38, signed by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), and the heads of the California State Sheriffs' Assn. and the California Faculty Assn. -- all of whom have backed Brown's initiative."


"Munger and Brown have tangled in the press and in the courts as they pursue rival tax measures for the fall. The governor’s proposal would temporarily boost levies on sales and upper-income individuals to help balance the state’s budget while Munger is proposing a broader income tax hike to raise money for schools and early childhood programs."


Meanwhile, the deep budget cuts that have marked California's recent spending plans has resulted in a steep drop in CalWorks recipients, nearly four out of five of whom are children.


From the California Budget Project: "Despite a jobless rate that remains in double digits, the number of families enrolled in CalWORKs has tumbled sharply, with the caseload dropping by more than 25,000 (4.2 percent) from June 2011 to March 2012, the most recent month for which data are available."


"Some portion of this decline could be due to the modest improvement in California’s economy: The state’s unemployment rate fell from 11.9 percent in June 2011 to 11.0 percent in March 2012. Some CalWORKs parents may have moved into the workforce – and out of the CalWORKs Program – during that period..."


"But the suddenness of the caseload drop-off indicates that some other factor was at work. The culprit? The major reductions adopted as part of last year’s budget."


Willie Brown -- remember him? -- is the power-behind-the-scenes in San Francisco and the smartest guy in town.


From Elizabeth Lesly Stevens in the Washington Monthly: "Already front and center on the broad landing that served as the stage for the occasion was Willie L. Brown Jr. Brown’s days as an elected official—he served as speaker of the state assembly, and then two terms as San Francisco’s mayor—are long past. But he remains very much the star of the show, and was arguably the most powerful man in the room."


"The ascent of Ed Lee that morning was the public culmination of Brown’s deft maneuvering over the previous two years to ensure that a safe and reliable ally would continue to control San Francisco’s local government. Lee’s predecessor, Gavin Newsom, was himself a Brown protégé, getting his start in city politics when Brown appointed him to the parking commission and then the board of supervisors."


"Brown and his longtime ally Rose Pak, a community organizer and a powerful figure from the city’s Chinese Chamber of Commerce, had managed to get Lee, an obscure city hall apparatchik, appointed interim mayor in January 2011 when Newsom left office early to become lieutenant governor. As an incumbent, Lee was then a shoo-in to win a full term. Brown had built up Lee’s public service bona fides for years, appointing the former Asian Law Caucus attorney to a series of posts, including head of the city’s purchasing office and the department of public works."


For years, local residents and a natural gas company have been fighting over the company's attempt to store gas deep under a Sacramento neighborhood. On Thursday, the decision came down from the Public Utilities Commission rejecting proposal.


From Loretta Kalb in the Sacramento Bee: "A long-fought plan to store 7.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas deep below a Sacramento neighborhood was rejected today by the state energy regulators."


"A majority of the five-member California Public Utilities Commission voted against the plan sought by the Sacramento Natural Gas Storage LLC."


And from our "Winds of War" file comes the tale of two fighter pilots who tried to shoot each other down 40 years ago over Hanoi and have been reunited. 


"Two men, who tried to kill each other 40 years ago, met at the Minneapolis airport this afternoon."


"Dan Cherry and New Yen Hong Me were fighter pilots in Vietnam, on opposite sides of the war. They engaged in a dog fight over Hanoi in April 1972. Cherry blew the wing off Hong Me’s jet with a missile. Hong Me was able to eject, and the two met in Vietnam four years ago."


"Hong Me is in Minnesota for the Air Expo this weekend at Flying Cloud airport."


"The duo met face-to-face for the first time on a Vietnamese television show that reunites people, usually long-lost relatives. It was 2008, and Cherry said he was nervous."


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