Archive | October, 2012

CalPERS headed for a cliff?

29 Oct

From Chico News & Review 10/25/2012

“The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) has made a disturbing announcement for many of its long-term-care clients.

CalPERS has proposed an 85 percent premium increase for 115,000 of its 150,000 long-term beneficiaries, according to the Sacramento Business Journal. Earlier this month, CalPERS officials were considering a 75 percent premium hike, which organization spokesperson Bill Madison called ‘a work in progress’ at the time.

The raised premiums, which would take effect in 2015 and be phased in over two years, are in anticipation of budget shortfalls in the future. Unlike its pension-benefits program, CalPERS’ long-term program is not funded by taxpayers.

‘At current course and speed, we would not have enough money … to pay anticipated claims,’ said CalPERS deputy executive officer Ann Boynton.”

I didn’t know CalPERS offered “long-term-care” insurance. What a scam. They take these premiums fully expecting you to DIE before you collect.  Read more below, from the CalPERS press site.

CalPERS site:  http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/press/pr-2012/oct/ltc-premium-increase.xml

Press Release

October 17, 2012

External Affairs Branch
(916) 795-3991
Robert Udall Glazier, Deputy Executive Officer
Brad Pacheco, Chief, Office of Public Affairs
Contact: Bill Madison, Information Officer
pressroom@calpers.ca.gov

 

CalPERS Approves Long-Term Care Premium Increase

Three alternative plans offered to ease impact on policyholders

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Board of Administration today approved an 85 percent premium increase for early purchasers of its Long-Term Care (LTC) Insurance Program policies. The increase, to be spread over two years, is being implemented to help stabilize the Program’s underlying Long-Term Care Fund and will take effect July 2015. Members who opt to cover the increase in a single year will pay only 79 percent.

Policyholders affected by the increase purchased two types of policies between 1995 and 2004: policies with lifetime benefits with inflation protection, and policies with lifetime benefits without inflation protection (California Partnership policies will be excluded).

The premium increase is necessary to offset the effect of higher-than-expected claims, lower-than-expected investment income, the Board’s adoption of a more conservative LTC Fund investment mix, and a lowering of the Fund’s investment discount rate to 5.75 percent to align with the more conservative investment portfolio.

The Board also approved three new optional alternative benefit plans that will provide the affected CalPERS LTC policyholders with options for relief from the financial impact of the 2015 rate increase. These new alternatives will allow policyholders to avoid further premium increases by converting to policies that will still provide adequate protection and possibly lower their premiums.

“We took great care to listen to the concerns of our policyholder constituent groups and weighed staff proposals for these options carefully before making our decision,” said Board President Rob Feckner. “We are taking these actions to ensure the sustainability of the Long-Term Care Fund and the availability of benefits for our policyholders.”

Affected policyholders will be given the opportunity to convert their policies to these new options in the spring of 2013. The policy changes will take effect July 1, 2013. View a list of the proposed new policy conversion options (PDF, 87 KB).

“We feel the plan options we will offer our policyholders make this a win-win situation, especially for those with lifetime benefit policies,” said Priya Mathur, Chair of the Board’s Pension and Health Benefits Committee. “With the average length of stay in a care facility a little over three years, we think the 10-year conversion option will provide more than adequate coverage when our policyholders need it.”

The CalPERS Long-Term Care Program began in 1995 and currently has more than 150,000 members and approximately $3.6 billion in LTC Fund assets. The LTC Program is a voluntary, self-funded, not-for-profit program funded entirely by policyholder premiums and investment earnings.

CalPERS is the nation’s largest public pension fund with approximately $243 billion in assets, providing retirement benefits to more than 1.6 million State, public school, and local public agency employees, retirees, and their families, and health benefits to more than 1.3 million members. The average CalPERS pension is $2,332 per month. The average benefit for those who retired in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, is $3,065 per month. For more information about CalPERS, visit http://www.calpers.ca.gov.        

                                                                                                                                                                                                      ### end of press release ###

There it says, “The premium increase is necessary to offset the effect of higher-than-expected claims, lower-than-expected investment income, the Board’s adoption of a more conservative LTC Fund investment mix, and a lowering of the Fund’s investment discount rate to 5.75 percent to align with the more conservative investment portfolio.”

“higher than expected claims” – that means, people are actually living to collect! How could they NOT have expected that? They sell you insurance, and then they don’t provide for you?  Again I will say, what a SCAM.

lower than expected investment income” – yes, like the pensions, they’ve gambled this fund on the stock market, and where they predicted they’d be getting somewhere between 7 and 20 percent returns, they’ve been lucky to get ONE PERCENT. They’ve lost millions.

Which led to “the Board’s adoption of a more conservative LTC Fund investment mix” – oooo, I’ll bet!

“”and a lowering of the Fund’s investment discount rate to 5.75 percent to align with the more conservative investment portfolio.” This means, CalPERS clients will pay more toward their own benefits, for the “long-term-care” coverage anyway.

http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/press/pr-2012/sept/discount-rate.xml

These articles are like boxes within boxes – every time I read more, I have more questions than I had before. See this link, here above – this article tells how  CalPERS got public employees to buy into this scam by offering them a “discount rate.”  Suckers – anybody who thinks they can get something for nothing deserves to be had.   How could they believe they could pay so little, and then be taken care of indefinitely in some rest home? How could they believe that the stock market, which has behaved very poorly and been outrageously volatile these last ten years, would pay consistently enough to float thousands of retirees who aren’t paying anything?

But it’s not just the employees – we, the taxpayers, are also  the suckers here. A lot of public employees get “long-term-care” paid for by their employer. I haven’t seen the city of Chico contracts – have you? I’m guessing we pay for “long-term-care,” but I’d have to see the contracts. 

This is part of the perfect pension storm. CalPERS is in trouble, they’re just trying not to let on. Right now they are hitting lower level employees, like my friend who earns less than $40,000 a year with Butte County, to pay their own “employee share.” Sounds like no big deal, huh? Well, it’s the beginning of a big deal, so watch it. The lower level county employees – “classified staff” – those making less than $50,000/yr – have been TOLD over the last year that they would be paying their own 7 percent share of their benefits. That’s the deal at the county, at the city it’s 9 percent. Then the employers pay a matching amount – 7 percent for the county, and 9 percent for the city.  I don’t know all the details perfect, but here’s the bottom line – City of Chico employees, with the exception of the fire department,  pay only a small portion toward their health benefits, and NOTHING on their pensions. 

And the other thing is, that’s only 14 and 18 percent. The rest of the pension premiums are riding on the stock market. And the market is not paying fast enough to keep up even with the pensions currently being paid out, not to mention the pensions that will be paid to our current employees. So Jerry Brown is trying to get CalPERS to raise the payments – whether the employees pay them, or WE pay them, they’re going to have to be paid. We’re talking BILLIONS in unfunded pensions.  

The problem – the giant defecating elephant – is that thousands of people  currently work for public entities, thinking they will be taken care of for life having only paid a couple thousand dollars a year toward that care. The average premium, according to Cal Pers, is $2500 a year, while the average pension benefit payment is $3200 a month. How could that possibly be sustainable? 

CalPERS convinced the public employment sector, as well as our governor and our  legislature, that they could sustain these outrageous pensions with only 14 – 18 percent of the premium being paid by the employee/employer. They promised they could make these crazy, 20 percent returns on the stock market, and our corrupt and lazy legislators gave them the go ahead to do it. 

The city of Chico does not have to remain on this road to Perdition. The contracts are being hashed over right now. Some of them are already done deals – with all the perks and benies, and even some raises! How nice! But there are still contracts on the table. We must lean on our elected leaders to make our employees pay more of their “share.” Whoever you vote for in this election, take some responsibility for them – like you would your own child. When your child does something wrong, you have to point it out, you have to tell them it won’t be tolerated – not only by you, but more importantly, not by society at large. We have to take our elected officials off to the corner too, tell them when we feel they are not doing their jobs, not listening, not taking correct action. You can tell them sweet or sour, but you should tell them. We need some sort of benefits reform HERE IN CHICO. We don’t have to continue like helpless lemmings off into the Pacific with Governor Moonbeam and his horde. 

We’ll have to hit the ground running

26 Oct

I’ve reserved the meeting room at the Chico library for our First Sunday meeting, November 4,  9am. I hope that’s good for everybody, let me know, I can change the time.

That of course, is only days before the election, a little too late for any strategizing on Measure J.  What I’d really like to talk about is what we’ll do after the election. I got a couple of ideas I been kicking back and forth with the fence post.

Of course, I believe our first true concern is a sales tax increase. I would bet my last five dollars that whether or not Prop 30 or Measure J pass, Tom Lando will bring forward his sales tax increase measure. He will either say, Prop 30 lost and we need the money, or Prop 30 won but we can’t trust Brown to share the proceeds from 30.  He’ll say, whether it wins or loses, that Measure J was already being spent, which is true. The city has been collecting the phone tax illegally, mainly through stooges AT&T, for years, and stands to lose millions in ill-gotten gain. Sheesh – they may even be afraid we’ll sue them for those illegal takings, like the folks of the  city of Chula Vista!

http://www.caseygerry.com/news/class-certified-chula-vista-tax-lawsuit

I honestly believe Tom Lando fully intends to ask for a special election in Spring 2013 to put a sales tax increase measure before the voters, and we need to start thinking about a serious “organized” campaign against it.

Secondly, I heard a good idea from the city of Hemet, which recently unloaded their ex-city manager on us – Brian Nakamura. Sure, they made it look like they were being ripped off, but I say, they hoodwinked us into taking the guy. Ever read “Ransom of Red Chief”?

Yeah, those Hemetians are pretty damned smart.  Two years ago, they passed some very interesting legislation in their little town, read here –

http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/hemet/hemet-headlines-index/20101026-hemet-campaign-spending-increases.ece

Here are the ballotpedia pages for Measures W and X – both passed with OVER 80 PERCENT OF THE VOTE. Measure W limits terms for city elected officials, and Measure X cuts them off from city-paid  health benefits.

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Hemet_Term_Limits,_Measure_W_(November_2010)

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Hemet_Prohibition_on_Contributing_to_Cost_of_Healthcare,_Measure_X_(November_2010)

You will note, the Hemet Taxpayers’ Association put some money into these issues. We must decide, do we want to start raising and spending money?

I hope to see the usual suspects on November 4, at the library, 9am, along with some fresh newbies, willing to put their shoulder to the wheel to turn our city around.

We need to dump structural overtime and ask public safety employees to pay more of their own health and pension costs so we can hire more personnel

24 Oct

I watched the city council meeting for a while online last night and then I read the report in this morning’s ER. As usual, no mention of pension premiums or structured-in overtime.

Right now Chico police employees pay nothing toward their pensions, which will be 90 percent of their salary, available at 50 years of age. The city of Chico, and that would  be you and me, the taxpayers, pay not only the “employer  share” but the “employee share” of pension premiums for all city employees – except the fire department. They pay two percent of their premium cost, and the city picks up the other seven percent of the “employee share”, as well as the entire nine percent “employer share”.

Two questions stand begging beside the table here –

  1. why do they call them the “employer” and “employee” shares if the employer is doing all the paying?
  2. who pays the other 82 percent of the premium?

The answer to Number 1 is, we’re a pack of suckers.

The answer to Number 2 can be found in this  earlier post:

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/ann-schwabs-mismanagement-21-top-paid-retired-employees-get-over-2-million-a-year-in-pension-payments-plus-benefits-and-cola/

Nobody pays that other 82 percent. It’s “outstanding.” It is waiting offshore like the fabled “perfect storm,” waiting for the lack of revenues to catch up with the overspending of same. When CalPers can’t pay those “outstanding” pensions anymore, it will fall on the cities and other public entities that agreed to these contracts to pay them. Let me show you the tidal wave we’re facing here – well, how about, just the part you can see through the windshield of George Clooney’s crappy little fishing boat. These, again, are just those 21 retirees receiving over $100,000 in pension. There are hundreds more receiving $99,000 or less, plus health benefits.

Name Employer Warrant Amount Annual
ALEXANDER, THOMAS CHICO $8,947.23 $107,366.76
BAPTISTE, ANTOINE G CHICO $10,409.65 $124,915.80
BEARDSLEY, DENNIS D CHICO $8,510.23 $102,122.76
BROWN, JOHN S CHICO $17,210.38 $206,524.56
CARRILLO, JOHN A CHICO $10,398.98 $124,787.76
DAVIS, FRED CHICO $12,467.78 $149,613.36
DUNLAP, PATRICIA CHICO $10,632.10 $127,585.20
FELL, JOHN G CHICO $9,209.35 $110,512.20
FRANK, DAVID R CHICO $14,830.05 $177,960.60
GARRISON, FRANK W CHICO $8,933.56 $107,202.72
JACK, JAMES F CHICO $9,095.09 $109,141.08
KOCH, ROBERT E CHICO $9,983.23 $119,798.76
LANDO, THOMAS J CHICO $11,236.48 $134,837.76
MCENESPY, BARBARA CHICO $12,573.40 $150,880.80
PIERCE, CYNTHIA CHICO $9,390.30 $112,683.60
ROSS, EARNEST C CHICO $9,496.60 $113,959.20
SCHOLAR, GARY P CHICO $8,755.69 $105,068.28
SELLERS, CLIFFORD R CHICO $9,511.11 $114,133.32
VONDERHAAR, JOHN F CHICO $8,488.07 $101,856.84
VORIS, TIMOTHY M CHICO $8,433.90 $101,206.80
WEBER, MICHAEL C CHICO $11,321.93 $135,863.16

Six of the above, that I know of, are either police or fire department.

The police and fire departments also manage to drive up their salaries, some of them almost DOUBLE, with overtime. It’s the classic repo-man grab – they say they need to write overtime into the budget, and the contracts guarantee officers a certain amount of overtime. They say overtime is cheaper than new hires. But then they turn around and bitch for new hires.

The police and fire departments, mostly through salaries and benefits packages, take up over 82 % of our city budget, and drive our looming pension debt.   This never came up in the budget conversation at City Hall last night. There stood the elephant in the room, crapping all over the chambers, but nobody would look him directly in the eye. 

Are you tired of this? Me too.

22 Oct

I’m looking for a caption for this picture – something imaginative, not the same old cranky drunk potshot. There’s more to this picture than a snarling bitch holding on to a sixpack. Think about it. The winner gets a $5 gift certificate from Shuberts and a free ‘NO on J’ sign.

Thanks Toby and Sue for getting those ‘NO on J’ signs out there!

22 Oct

Wow, at last, a change in the weather. Kris Kuyper reported single digit humidity last week – my hair was standing on end, my nose was bleeding, my skin was itchy, I had about enough “drought season” for this year. I can’t wait to go outside after this downpour and take in all the fall colors. 

Our little plastic ‘NO on J’ signs are holding up well. I want to thank Toby Schindelbeck and Sue Hubbard for helping me get these signs out. My husband and I have taken little forays, and we’ll be out there again today and tomorrow, but it’s so gratifying to see signs we have not posted, out there waving in the wind like little red warning flags.

Cause I got a sign, and I’ll wave in the morning, I’ll wave it in the evening, all over this land – it spells out D-A-N-G-E-R, it spells out W-A-R-N-I-N-G, it spells GET YOUR HAND OUT OF MY PURSE, ANN SCHWAB!

 

 

 

Hardest election ever!

21 Oct

I received my mail-in ballot Tuesday of last week, and I’ll remind everybody – those are due in about two weeks, so I’d get mine in the mail by next Tuesday if I were you.

I usually fill mine out and send it right in, but this time I’ve been having a hard time deciding on some of the candidates.

I’ve been waiting for Bob Evans to be honest and  tell us what he knows about Tom Lando’s plans to increase our local sales tax, but you’ve  probably heard that old adage about skinning a cat. Bob won’t answer me on that, I’ve asked him point blank and he just avoids the question, slicker than a whistle, that dawg. I know Bob has signed the “argument against” Measure J, but I sure haven’t seen him out  there making any other noise about it. Sometimes I wonder, did he just tack his name onto that argument? Or does he really want to defeat Measure J? I’ve offered him a yard sign, we’ll see if he takes me up on that. I wish he would have given the issue some space on one or two of those billboards he’s got around town.

Almost the first thing Bob said after he mounted the dais was that he’d like to work to get a formal policy by which we replace a council member who steps down before their term is up. Remember, Bob got on council two years ago by default, really. He didn’t win the election, he was appointed to Larry Wahl’s vacated seat.  That was a big fight because currently there is no written policy to fill a vacant seat. It caused a big fight when Colleen Jarvis died with only months left in her term. Her friends in the Esplanade League tried to get her boyfriend appointed by getting “guaranteed” votes from Scott Gruendl, Maureen Kirk, and Dan Nguyen-tan  – but  this turned out to be a Brown Act violation, and Jarvis’ seat remained empty until the following election.  That meeting was nasty, with the liberals mobbing the chamber, shouting insults, etc.

Ann Schwab and her friends tried to have Sor Lo, a local businessman with no local political history, appointed to Wahl’s seat.  The chambers were packed for that meeting and the conversation went on and off the track for hours.   Bob was finally appointed on what I’d consider a shoo-in – he had come within 100 votes of winning in the election, trailing Goloff by only 61 votes, and Gruendl by only a couple of hundred. This seems like a sound enough policy to me, but it was a wrestling match getting Evans in that seat and it will be another wrestling match next time we have a councilor step down. It’s divisive, the liberals have driven the wedge deeper into our community with every push they’ve made to install somebody without the consent of the voters.  We told them that after the Jarvis mess but they didn’t listen, and we had to go through it all again with Sor Lo, amid accusations of racism and some pretty ugly talk from the liberals. And don’t forget the money that went into $taff time. 

This is an important issue, and I’d like to see it go forward. As I recall, it was assigned to the Internal Affairs committee, of which Evans is a member. That committee has been taken up with issues like “corporate personhood” and the smoking ban since last February. While I admired Bob’s comments on both of those issues, I have to say, where’s the vacant seat policy? I couldn’t find it anywhere in the 2012 minutes. They shelved that committee all summer, not one meeting. What happened there? 

Well, that committee is back in business, and discussing important issues, like sunshining the contracts and allowing a certain private developer to develop city-owned parking lots into residential/commercial buildings.  I don’t really like the direction either conversation is taking. The contract talks remain behind closed doors, we get to see the contracts and comment on them but we have no idea what kind of promises or threats are being made behind those doors. Meanwhile, our new city manager is laying the way for New Urban Builders to put “live-work units” on heavily used Downtown parking lots – a sudden switch in gears from the old “we don’t have enough parking Downtown” bullshit. 

I don’t know if I can vote for Evans, I’m sorry. This whole election is going to be tough.

A real “grass roots” endeavor

20 Oct

I remember way back when Casey Aplanalp contacted me via my “Ad Hoc” blog in the Enterprise Record, asking me if I would like to form some kind of group to oppose Tom Lando’s proposed sales tax increase.  We talked it over and came up with the name “Chico Taxpayers Association,” and an “organization” was born.  I started this blog on word press, and yakked it up, and before you know it, we had a group of the “usual suspects” – people who had very little in common except their compulsive curiosity about government spending and intuitive suspicion toward tax increases. We’ve carried on with regular First Sunday meetings, same place, various times, trying to get the public to pay attention what we consider to be EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS.  

We found no support in this community for a sales tax increase, in fact, we heard from many people who were angry about it.  I think we added to the pressure that forced Lando to take a “break” from his tax-raising activities, obviously hoping that public sentiment will change significantly by next year, when I believe he intends to ask council for a special election. 

But we couldn’t let up at that point, because Ann Schwab had already introduced her cell phone tax, eventually Measure J, and it seemed like a “no-brainer” to re-tool our little weed-whacker to oppose this obvious G-snatch. 

We have no registered PAC, no officers, we collect no money, and we have no manifesto. We have a word press site, and a regular standing date at the library. 

According to wikipedia,  “A grassroots movement (often referenced in the context of a political movement) is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.”

Well, I’d say, we’re about as “grassroots” as it gets. 

And then there’s the opposition – led by our mayor, Ann Schwab. I’d say, a woman who’s been sitting on council since 2004, mayor since 2008, is pretty clearly a “power structure.” Of course, city council is supposed to be a non-partisan body, but try telling that to Bob Mulhullond, the guy who kept his own wife in a “non-partisan” office for 30 years! There’s nothing “spontaneous” about these people  – you can always expect an ugly letter from Steve Troester regarding whoever the conservative front runner is. This morning he unleashed his pen on Toby Schindelbeck – how telling! And you can expect the same last-minute hit-mailer from Michael Worley, even though he got fined by the FPPC for the mailer he sent out in the last election because he put a fake name in the return address – tried to rip off Mothers Against Drunk Drivers – how low will “Miguel” sink this time? It’s anybody’s guess. 

Somebody has already trashed one of the signs I gave a neighbor, along with a Bob Evans sign. Somebody!  Welcome to Chico Elections! 

Oh well, I will say, it has no effect on my enthusiasm. Today I spent an hour at the library, sitting in the lobby with some signs and my sample ballot. The library was busy as usual, I’d say, two or three people came in that door every ten minutes. I had a couple of good conversations – the usual reaction – people are surprised to find out about the tax. It’s not like anybody’s advertising it. You don’t see any “Yes on J” signs around town, do you? The sample ballot was only delivered Tuesday, I wonder, has anybody read it? This morning my husband and I drove out around town, covering the east-south corridor from mid-town out toward Doe Mill and then over to Chapmantown. Most of the people we spoke to had not heard of Measure J, had not had a chance to look over their sample ballot. I worry that people will not have a  chance to look at the text of this measure until they are standing in the voting booth, so I’m out there, and I’m saying something. 

I’m telling people, read your sample ballot, you’re likely to find all kinds of outrageous stuff!