Posts Tagged ‘San Antonio’

LinkSwarm for April 7, 2017

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Welcome to another Friday LinkSwarm!

I’m still not wild about President Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian airfield with cruise missiles last night, but the decision makes more sense if you look at it less of a tool to make Bashar Assad mend his ways than as a warning shot across the bows of Ali Khamenei, Kim Jong-Un and Xi Jinping, the latter of whom President Trump just happened to be meeting with while the missiles were hitting Shayrat.

Now some links:

  • Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court today. How’d that Nuclear Option work out for you in the long run, Harry Reid?
  • The Obama/Kerry policy on Syrian chemical disarmament has been such an astounding failure that even Polifact has been forced to admit it.
  • Here’s a really interesting precinct-by-precinct map of the 2016 presidential election, along with analysis of changes from previous maps.

  • Susan Rice has changed her story twice. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Intelligence agencies are stonewalling congressional information requests on unmasking scandal.
  • Even Rolling Stone has noticed Putin derangement syndrome.
  • Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while recognizing East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
  • Russia has banned this image:

  • Jobless claims “are hovering near the lowest level since the early 1970s.” Now the trick is to produce enough sustained growth to get the Obama-discouraged long-term unemployed back into the workforce…
  • Dissecting the mainstream media’s dishonest response to every jihad attack.
  • “Conniving, spineless, duplicitous, misleading, double-crossing—Chuck Schumer is a fitting exemplar for the modern Democratic Party.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Intersectionality is a religion. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Marines test polymers to cut weight.
  • College student who was once in pictures with Bill Clinton busted for prostitution. What are the odds? (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Justified shooting, unjustified indictment.
  • Mike Pence’s rules for not being alone with other women are probably less about preventing adultery than to prevent him from being framed and smeared by feminists.
  • “Ethicist” Pete Singer: Hey, let’s rape the retarded! It’s not like they’re real human beings…
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police can intercept your cell phone conversations.
  • Is Google prejudiced against ex-military employees?
  • ESPN is losing money hand-over-fist, but they’re still going shove the liberal culture war down your throat.
  • Oh the huge manatees…are doing just fine.
  • Hope you don’t need to use the stretch of I-35 near San Antonio this weekend: The Texas Department of Transportation is shutting it down for four days.
  • Don Rickles, RIP. With a great segment with him on the Tonight Show with Frank Sinatra.
  • Texas vs. California Update for February 15, 2017

    Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

    Welcome to another Texas vs. California Roundup!

  • California Governor Jerry Brown wants to hike gas taxes by 42% to bail out CalPERS.
  • Brown’s pension reforms have failed:

    Since 2012 passage of his much-heralded changes to state retirement laws for public employee, the pension debt foisted on California taxpayers has only grown larger.

    The shortfall for California’s three statewide retirement systems has increased about 36 percent. Add in local pension systems and the total debt has reached at least $374 billion. That works out to about $29,000 per household.

    It’s actually much worse than that. Those numbers are calculated using the pension systems’ overly optimistic assumptions about future investment earnings.

    Using more conservative assumptions, the debt could be more than $1 trillion.

  • And speaking of Brown: Math is hard.
  • Why California can’t repair its infrastructure: “California’s government, like the federal government and most other state and local governments, spends its money on salaries, benefits, pensions, and other forms of employee compensation. The numbers are contentious — for obvious political reasons — but it is estimated that something between half and 80 percent of California’s state and local spending ultimately goes to employee compensation.”
  • Put another way: “Governor Moonbeam and the other leftist kooks in charge are flushing a staggering $10 billion down an unneeded high-speed rail project, on top of the still more staggering $25.3 billion per year they spend on the illegal aliens they have gone out of their way to welcome.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • California can’t afford green energy:

    California has the highest taxes overall in the nation, worst roads, underperforming schools, and the recent budget has at least a $1.6 billion shortfall.

    Moreover, depending on how the numbers are analyzed California has either a $1.3 or a $2.8 trillion outstanding debt. This is before counting the maintenance work needed for infrastructure, particularly roads, bridges and water systems. Yet tax increases aren’t covering these obligations.

  • Three of the ten least affordable cities in the World are in California: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose.
  • Austin named best city to live in the U.S. But wait! San Jose ranks third! I can only assume that “affordability” was not a significant criteria. Dallas/Ft. Worth ranks 15th (one ahead of San Francisco), Houston 20th, San Antonio 23rd (one behind San Diego).
  • “A sizzling residential real estate market fueled by incoming Californians, low supply, high demand, flat salaries, and local property taxes are pricing people out of homeownership in Austin.” More: “The Texas A&M Real Estate Center examined the Austin local market area (LMA) over five years. In January 2011, the Austin-Georgetown-Round Rock area median home prices were $199,700. By January 2015, that median hovered at $287,000. At the end of 2016, university real estate analysts found the home mid-price point at $332,000.” Of course, in my neck of the woods, $332,000 will buy you a 2,500 square foot house, while in San Francisco, you’d be lucky to find a 500 square foot condo…
  • “An IGS-UC Berkeley poll shows that 74 percent of Californians want sanctuary cities ended; 65 percent of Hispanics, 70 percent of independents, 73 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans.”
  • Of the top 20 cities for illegal aliens, five (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Riverside) are in California, while three (Houston, Austin and Dallas/Ft. Worth) are in Texas. I’m actually a bit surprised to see that San Antonio isn’t on that list, while Seattle and Boston are. “American citizens who paid into the system don’t receive benefits like long-term medical care because — in part — we’re all subsidizing aliens.”
  • California pays $25.3 billion in illegal alien benefits, or $2,370 per household. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • By contrast, Texas pays $12.1 billion in illegal alien benefits, or $1,187 per household. (IBID)
  • “In testimony provided before the California Senate’s Public Safety Committee, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) decided to admit that “half of his family” is residing in the United States illegally and with the possession of falsified Social Security Cards and green cards.”
  • “California spent on high-speed rail and illegal immigrants, but ignored Oroville Dam.”
  • Pensions are breaking budgets across San Diego. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Despite California having some of the best recreation spots in the world, we have systematically reduced our business in California by 50%, and I have a moratorium in place on accepting new business (I won’t even look at RFP’s and proposals to avoid being tempted.)”
  • That same blogger on why his company pulled out of Ventura, California. Like this:

    It took years in Ventura County to make even the simplest modifications to the campground we ran. For example, it took 7 separate permits from the County (each requiring a substantial payment) just to remove a wooden deck that the County inspector had condemned. In order to allow us to temporarily park a small concession trailer in the parking lot, we had to (among other steps) take a soil sample of the dirt under the asphalt of the parking lot. It took 3 years to permit a simple 500 gallon fuel tank with CARB and the County equivalent. The entire campground desperately needed a major renovation but the smallest change would have triggered millions of dollars of new facility requirements from the County that we simply could not afford.

    And this:

    A local attorney held regular evening meetings with my employees to brainstorm new ways the could sue our company under arcane California law. For example, we went through three iterations of rules and procedures trying to comply with California break law and changing “safe” harbors supposedly provided by California court decisions. We only successfully stopped the suits by implementing a fingerprint timekeeping system and making it an automatic termination offense to work through lunch. This operation has about 25 employees vs. 400 for the rest of the company. 100% of our lawsuits from employees over our entire 10-year history came from this one site. At first we thought it was a manager issue, so we kept sending in our best managers from around the country to run the place, but the suits just continued.

  • California has some of the highest taxes in the nation, but can’t pay for road maintenance:

    Texas has no state income tax, yet excellent highways and schools that perform above average, way above California’s bottom-dwellers. Yet both states have similar demographics. For example, in the 2010 U.S. Census, Texas was 37% Hispanic, California 37.6%.

    Texas is a First World state with no state income tax that enjoys great roads and schools. California is a Third World state restrained from getting worse only by its umbilical-cord attachment to the other 49 states, a cord the Calexit movement wants to cut, but won’t get to.

    California is Venezuela on the Pacific, a Third World state and wannabe Third World country; a place with great natural beauty, talented people, natural resources – and a government run by oligarchs and functionaries who treat the rest of us as peons.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • “Texas Ends 2016 with 210,200 Jobs Added Over the Year.”
  • All Houston does economically is win.

    The Houston metropolitan area’s population now stands at 6.6 million with the city itself a shade under 2.3 million. At its current rate of growth, Houston could replace Chicago as the nation’s third-largest city by 2030.

    Why would anyone move to Houston? Start with the economic record.

    Since 2000, no major metro region in America except for archrival Dallas-Fort Worth has created more jobs and attracted more people. Houston’s job base has expanded 36.5%; in comparison, New York employment is up 16.6%, the Bay Area 11.8%, and Chicago a measly 5.1%. Since 2010 alone, a half million jobs have been added.

    Some like Paul Krugman have dismissed Texas’ economic expansion, much of it concentrated in its largest cities, as primarily involving low-wage jobs, but employment in the Houston area’s professional and service sector, the largest source of high-wage jobs, has grown 48% since 2000, a rate almost twice that of the San Francisco region, two and half times that of New York or Chicago, and more than four times Los Angeles. In terms of STEM jobs the Bay Area has done slightly better, but Houston, with 22% job growth in STEM fields since 2001, has easily surpassed New York (2%), Los Angeles (flat) and Chicago (-3%).

    More important still, Houston, like other Texas cities, has done well in creating middle-class jobs, those paying between 80% and 200% of the median wage. Since 2001 Houston has boosted its middle-class employment by 26% compared to a 6% expansion nationally, according to the forecasting firm EMSI. This easily surpasses the record for all the cities preferred by our media and financial hegemons, including Washington (11%) and San Francisco (6%), and it’s far ahead of Los Angeles (4%), New York (3%) and Chicago, which lost 3% of its middle-class employment.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Texas conservative budget overview vs. the 2018-2019 proposed budget.
  • On the same subject: how to reduce the footprint of Texas government.
  • “Berkeley funds the Division of Equity and Inclusion with a cool $20 million annually and staffs it with 150 full-time functionaries: it takes that much money and personnel to drum into students’ heads how horribly Berkeley treats its “othered” students.”
  • New LA housing initiative to undo previous housing initiative. Frankly all of them sound like market-distorting initiatives guaranteed to backfire…
  • “California’s bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
  • “For the past five months, BART has been staffing its yet-to-open Warm Springs Station full time with five $73,609-a-year station agents and an $89,806-a-year train dispatch supervisor — even though no trains will be running there for at least another two months.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “After studying “tens of thousands of restaurants in the San Francisco area,” researchers Michael Luca of Harvard Business School and Dara Lee Luca of Mathematica Policy Research found that many lower rated restaurants have a unique way of dealing with minimum wage hikes: they simply go out of business.”
  • Meet Gordon, the robot barista. How’s that $15 an hour minimum wage working out for you, San Francisco?
  • “Nestle USA announced today that it is moving 300 technical, production and supply chain jobs to the Solon [Ohio] plant as part of the company’s plan to relocate its headquarters to Arlington, Virginia, from Glendale, California.”
  • Auto dealer AutoAlert is moving it’s headquarters from Irvine, California to Kansas City.
  • Peter Thiel to run for governor of California?
  • The Oakland Raiders may not be moving to Las Vegas after all, because billionaire Sheldon Adelson backed out of the stadium deal, accusing Raider owner Mark Davis of trying to screw him.
  • Now there’s talk the Raiders may rexamine moving to San Antonio.
  • Or even Dan Diego.
  • Lawsuits are flying over the Dallas Police and Fire pension fund debacle. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Interview with TPPF’s James Quintero on the Texas Municipal Pension Debt Crisis

    Monday, January 2nd, 2017

    James Quintero, the Director of the Center for Local Governance at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, was kind enough to provide some detailed answers to questions I sent him about the municipal pension crisis in Dallas and other large Texas cities. My questions are in italics.


    The Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund issue is generally described as stemming from the fund manager’s risky real estate speculation. Are there any additional structural problems that helped hasten that fund’s crisis?

    When it comes to Texas’ public retirement systems, one of my greatest concerns is that there are other ticking time-bombs, like the DPFP, out there getting ready to explode. It’s not just Dallas’ pension plan that’s taken on excessive risk to chase high yield in a low-yield environment.

    Setting aside the issue of risk for a moment, the DPFP, like most other public retirement systems around the state, suffers from a fundamental design flaw. That is, it’s based on the defined benefit (DB) system, which guarantees retirees a lifetime of monthly income irrespective of whether the pension fund has the money to make good on its promises or not. This kind of system is akin to an entitlement program, warts and all, and is very much at the heart of pension crises brewing in Texas and across the country.

    One of the biggest problems with DB plans is that they rely on a lot of fuzzy math to make them work, or at least give the appearance of working. Take the issue of investment returns, for example. Many systems assume an overly optimistic rate of return when estimating a fund’s future earnings. Baking in these rosy projections is, among other things, a way to understate a plan’s pension debt. In an October 2016 study that I co-authored with the Mercatus Center’s Marc Joffe, I wrote the following to illustrate this very point:

    For example, the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) calculates its pension liability using a long-term expected rate of return on pension plan investments of 8.5%. During fiscal year 2015, the plan’s investments returned just 1.53%. Over a 7- and 10-year period the rates of return were 6.4% and 7.9%, respectively. Not achieving these investment returns year-after-year can have a dramatic fiscal impact.

    Even a small change in the actuarial assumptions can have major consequences for the fiscal health of a pension fund. According the HFRRF’s 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, a 1% decrease in the current assumed rate of return (8.5%) would almost double the fund’s pension liabilities, from $577.7 million to $989.5 million.

    So while risky real estate deals were certainly a catalyst in the current unraveling of the DPFP, I suspect that its refusal to move away from the defined benefit model and into a more sustainable alternative—much like the private sector has already done—would have ultimately led us to this same point of fiscal crisis.

    To what legal extent (if any) is Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund backstopped by the City of Dallas and/or Dallas County?

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a lawyer nor do I ever intend to be one. However, Article XVI, Section 66 of the Texas Constitution plainly states that non-statewide retirement systems, like DPFP, and political subdivisions, like the city of Dallas, “are jointly responsible for ensuring that benefits under this section are not reduced or otherwise impaired” for vested employees. Given that, it’s hard to see how the city of Dallas—or better yet, the Dallas taxpayer—isn’t obligated in some major way when their local retirement system reaches the point of no return, which may be a lot closer than people think given all the lump-sum withdrawals of late.

    Likewise, does the state of Texas have any statutory backstop to the Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund, or any other local pension funds?

    For non-statewide plans, I don’t believe so. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but the Texas Attorney General wrote something fairly interesting recently touching on aspects of this question.

    In September 2016, House Chairman Jim Murphy asked the AG to opine on “whether the State is required to assume liability when a local retirement system created pursuant to title 109 of the Texas Civil Statutes is unable to meet its financial obligations.” Title 109 refers to 13 local retirement systems in 7 major metropolitans that are a small-but-important group of plans that have embedded some of their provisions in state law (i.e. benefits, contribution rates, and composition of their boards) I’ve written a lot about this problem in the past (read more about it here).

    In response to Chairman Murphy’s question, the AG had this to say:

    In no instance does the constitution or the Legislature make the State liable for any shortfalls of a municipal retirement system regarding the system’s financial obligations under title 109. The Texas Constitution would in fact prohibit the State from assuming such liability without express authorization.

    …a court would likely conclude that the State is not required to assume liability when a municipal retirement system created under title 109 is unable to meet its financial obligations.

    So at least in the AG’s opinion, state taxpayers wouldn’t be required by law to bail out this subset of local retirement systems. But of course, the political calculus may be different than what’s required by law.

    Compared to the Dallas situation, how badly off are the Houston, Austin and San Antonio public employee pension funds?

    If you’re a taxpayer or property owner in one of Texas’ major cities, I’d be concerned. Moody’s, one of the largest credit rating agencies in the U.S., recently found that: “Rapid growth in unfunded liabilities over the past 10 years has transformed local governments’ balance sheet burdens to historically high levels,” and that Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio had a combined $22.6 billion in pension debt—and it’s growing worse!

    Using the Pension Review Board’s latest Actuarial Valuations Report for November 2016, we can parse the systems within each municipality to get a little bit better sense of where the trouble lies. Pension debt for the retirement systems in the big 4 looks like this:

  • Austin Employees’ Retirement System: $1.1 billion, Austin Police Retirement System: $346 M, and Austin Fire Fighters Relief and Retirement Fund: $93 M;
  • Dallas Employees’ Retirement Fund: $809 M, Dallas Police and Fire Pension System—Combined Plan: $3.3 B, and Dallas Police and Fire Pension System—Supplemental: $23 M;
  • Houston Municipal Employees Pension System: $2.2 B, Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund: $467 M, and Houston Police Officer’s Pension System: $1.2 B; and
  • San Antonio Fire and Police Pension Fund: $360 M.
  • Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the figures use some of the same fuzzy math as described above, so the actual extent of the problem may be worse than the PRB’s latest figures indicate.

    What similarities, if any, are there to current Texas municipal pension issues and those that forced California cities like San Bernardino, Stockton and Vallejo into bankruptcy? What differences?

    The common element in most, if not all, of these systemic failures is the defined benefit pension plan. Because of the political element as well as the inclusion of inaccurate investment assumptions in the DB model, these plans are almost destined to fail, threatening the taxpayers who support it and the retirees who rely on it. And sadly, that’s what we’re witnessing now across the nation.

    As far as the differences go, California’s municipal bankruptcies as well as Detroit’s were preceded by decades of poor fiscal policy and gross mismanagement. I don’t see that same thing here in Texas, but it’s also important that we don’t let it happen too.

    California pensions were notoriously generous (20 years and out, spiking, etc.). Do any Texas state or local pensions strike you as unrealistically generous?

    Any plan that’s making pension promises but has no plan on how to make good on those promises is being unrealistically generous. And unfortunately for taxpayers and retirees alike, a fair number of plans can be categorized as such.

    The Pension Review Board’s Actuarial Valuations Report for November 2016 reveals that of Texas’ 92 state and local retirement system, only 4 of them are fully-funded. At the other extreme, a whopping 19 of the 92 plans have amortization periods of more than 40 years. Six of those 19 plans have infinite amortization periods, which effectively means that they have no plan to keep their promises but are instead planning to fail.

    As far as specific plans go, there’s no question that the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System is the posterchild for the overly generous. The Dallas Morning News recently covered the surreal levels of deferred compensation offered, finding that:

    The lump-sum withdrawals come from the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, known as DROP. The plan allows veteran officers and firefighters to essentially retire in the eyes of the system and stay on the job.

    Their benefit checks then accrue in DROP accounts. For years, the fund guaranteed interest rates of at least 8 percent. DROP made hundreds of retired officers and firefighters millionaires. And once they stopped deferring the money, they received their monthly benefit checks in addition to their DROP balance. [emphasis mine]

    It’s probably fair to say that any public program that makes millionaires out of its participants is probably being too generous with its benefits.

    There seem to be only two recent local government bankruptcies in Texas, neither of which were by cities: Hardeman County Hospital District Bankruptcy and Grimes County MUD #1. Did either of these involve pension debt issues?

    I’m not familiar with those instances, but when it comes to the issue of soaring pension obligations, I can tell you that the system as a whole is moving in bad direction.

    In November 2016, Texas’ 92 state and local retirement systems had racked up over $63 billion dollars of unfunded liabilities, with more than half owed by the Teacher Retirement System. That’s a staggering amount of pension debt that’s not only big but growing fast. And worse yet, that’s in addition to Texas’ already supersized local government debt-load.

    How we’re going to make good on all of these unfunded pension promises is anyone’s guess. But I imagine that it’ll involve some combination of much higher taxes, benefit reductions, and fewer city services.

    What limits or constraints does Texas place on Chapter 9 bankruptcy?

    The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline has some good information on this, at least as far as municipal bankruptcy is concerned. A November 2011 report, Municipal Bankruptcy Explained: What it Means to File for Chapter 9, had this to say about the process:

    Who can file for Chapter 9? Only municipalities — not states — can file for Chapter 9. To be legally eligible, municipalities must be insolvent, have made a good-faith attempt to negotiate a settlement with their creditors and be willing to devise a plan to resolve their debts. 

They also need permission from their state government. Fifteen states have laws granting their municipalities the right to file for Chapter 9 protection on their own, according to James Spiotto, a bankruptcy specialist with the Chicago law firm of Chapman and Cutler. Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Washington. 

    Hopefully this is a process that can be avoided entirely, but given the fiscal condition of the DPFP and potentially a few other systems, I’m not sure that’ll be the case.

    Next to Dallas, which municipal pensions would you say are in the worst shape?

    I’m most concerned about the local retirement systems in Title 109. The reason, again, is that these 13 local retirement systems are effectively locked into state law and there’s little that taxpayers or retirees in those communities can do to affect good government changes without first going to Austin. These systems have basically taken a bad situation and made it worse by fossilizing everything that counts.

    In the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s 2017-18 Legislator’s Guide to the Issues, I cover this issue in a little more detail. In the article (see pgs. 122 – 124), I write of these plans’ fiscal issues which can be seen below, albeit with slightly older data.

    texaspensiondebtchart

    (Funded ratios marked in red denote systems that are below the 80% threshold, signifying a plan that may be considered actuarially unsound. Source: Texas Bond Review Board.)

    The fact that these systems either are in or are headed for fiscal muck is a big reason why the Texas Public Policy Foundation is helping to educate and engage on legislation that would restore local control of these state-governed pension plans. People on the ground-level should have some say over their local plans, and that’s what we’ll be fighting for next session. Encouragingly, a bill’s already been filed in the Senate (see SB 152) and there should be legislation filed shortly in the House to do just that.

    Should Texas government agencies switched over to defined contribution (i.e. 401K) plans over standard pension plan, and if so, how might this realistically be accomplished without endangering existing retirees?

    ABSOLUTELY. Ending the defined benefit model and transitioning new employees into something more sustainable and affordable, like a defined contribution system, is one of the best things that the state legislature can do. This is something I’ve long been an advocate of.

    In fact, in early 2011, I played a very minor role in the publication of some major research spearheaded by Dr. Arthur Laffer, President Ronald Reagan’s chief economist, that advanced this same reform idea (see Reforming Texas’ State & Local Pension Systems for the 21st Century). I’ve also written a lot about the need to make the DC-switch, making the case recently in Forbes that:

    DC-style plans resemble 401(k)s in the private sector and the optional retirement programs (ORP) available for higher education employees in Texas. These DC-style plans put the power of an individual’s future in their own hands instead of depending on the good fortune of government-directed DB-style plans. DC-style plans are portable and sustainable over the long term as they are based on the contributions of retirees and a defined government match.

    With DC-style plans, retirees will finally have the opportunity to determine how much risk they are willing to take. They also reduce the risk that the government will default on their retirement or fund those losses with dollars from taxpayers who never intended to use these pensions. By giving retirees more freedom on how to best provide for their family, they will be in a much better position to prosper.

    Because of their efficiency, simplicity and fully funded nature, the private sector moved primarily to DC-style plans long ago. For the sake of taxpayers and retirees dependent on government pensions, it’s time for all governments to move to these types of plans as well.

    As far as dealing with transition costs, some much smarter people than I have written on this issue and found that it’s not as big of a challenge as it’s made out to be. Dr. Josh McGee, a vice president with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, and Chairman of the Pension Review Board, had this to say about the matter:

    Moving to a new system would have little to no effect on the current system. State and local pensions are pre-funded systems, and unlike Social Security, the contributions of workers today do not subsidize today’s retirees. Future normal cost contributions are used to fund new benefit accruals that workers earn on a go-forward basis and are not used to close funding gaps. Therefore, it matters little whether the normal cost payments are used to fund new benefits under the current system or a new system.

    (Source: The transition cost mirage—false arguments distract from real pension reform debates.)

    Another pension expert, Dr. Andrew Biggs with the American Enterprise Institute, published research that found that:

    In this study, I show that if a pension plan were closed to new hires, over time the duration of liabilities would shorten, and the portfolio used to fund those liabilities would become more conservative. However, the effects of these transition costs are so small as to be barely perceptible.

    (Source: Are there transition costs to closing a public-employee retirement plan?)

    I’m confident that with the right plan in place, Texas’ state and local retirement systems can make the switch to defined contribution and we’ll be all the better for it.


    Thanks to James Quintero for providing such a detailed analysis!

    And since we’re on the topic, here’s a roundup of news on the Dallas Police and Fireman’s pension fund crisis:

  • The Texas Rangers have launched a criminal probe into the shortfall.
  • City Journal offers details on the unreasonable generosity of the Dallas plan (which covers some of the same DROP issues Quintero mentions):

    Dallas created the police and fire plan in 1916. The system’s trustees eventually persuaded the state legislature to allow employees and pensioners to run the plan. Not surprisingly, the members have done so for their own benefit and sent the tab for unfunded promises—now estimated at perhaps $5 billion—to taxpayers. Among the features of the system is an annual, 4 percent cost-of-living adjustment that far exceeds the actual increase in inflation since 1989, when it was instituted. A Dallas employee with a $2,000 monthly pension in 1989 would receive $3,900 today if the system’s annual increases were pegged to the consumer price index. Under the generous Dallas formula, however, that same monthly pension could be worth more than $5,000. No wonder the ship is sinking.

    The system also features a lavish deferment option that lets employees collect pensions even as they continue to work and earn a salary. Moreover, the retirement money gets deposited into an account that earns guaranteed interest. Governments originally began creating these so-called DROP plans as an incentive to encourage experienced employees to keep working past retirement age, which in job categories like public safety can be as young as 50. In Dallas, the pension system gives workers in the DROP plan an 8 percent interest rate on their cash, at a time when yields on ten-year U.S. Treasury notes, a standard for guaranteed returns, are stuck at less than 2 percent. According to the city, some 500 employees working past retirement age have accumulated more than $1 million in these accounts—on top of the pensions that they will receive once they officially stop working.

  • The Dallas Morning News says that there’s plenty of blame to go around:

    Over the years, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System fund has amassed $2 billion to $5 billion in unfunded liabilities, the result of bad real estate investments and blatant self-enrichment from prior management. Coupled with a possible setback in ongoing litigation over public safety salaries, Dallas is in the most financially precarious position in its history.

    City officials are openly uttering the word bankruptcy, not just of the pension fund but the city itself. As Mayor Mike Rawlings told the Texas Pension Review Board this month, “the city is potentially walking into the fan blades that might look like bankruptcy.”

    The state Legislature created this mess by not giving the city a meaningful voice in the fund’s operation and allowing the former board of the pension fund to unilaterally sweeten its membership’s promised benefits without concern to the overall fiscal damage being done. Now it must help the city clean up the mess.

    Dallas already provides nearly 60 percent of its budget to support public safety services and recently contributed $4.6 million to increase its share of pension contributions to 28.5 percent — the maximum allowed under state statute. However, if Dallas loses the lawsuit over salaries and no changes are made to the pension fund, the city could take an $8 billion hit. That is roughly equal to eight years of the city’s general fund budget.

  • That said, the bond market doesn’t seem to think Dallas is near bankruptcy.
  • And it’s not just Dallas:

    Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio collectively face $22.6 billion worth of pension fund shortfalls, according to a new report from credit rating and financial analysis firm Moody’s. That company analyzed the nation’s most debt-burdened local governments and ranked them based on how big the looming pension shortfalls are compared to the annual revenues on which each entity operates.

    “Rapid growth in unfunded pension liabilities over the past 10 years has transformed local governments’ balance sheet burdens to historically high levels,” the report says.

    Chicago had the most dire ratio on the national list. Dallas came in second. According to the report, the North Texas city has unfunded pension liabilities totaling $7.6 billion. That’s more than five times the size of the city’s 2015 operating revenues.

    Both those cities may turn to the public to partially shore up their shortfalls. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wants to use $1 billion in bonds to infuse that city’s funds. Dallas police officer and firefighter pension officials also want $1 billion from City Hall, an amount officials there say is too high.

    Meanwhile, Austin ranked 14th on the Moody’s list with unfunded pension liabilities of $2.7 billion. San Antonio ranked 22nd with a $2.3 billion shortfall.

  • Texas vs. California Update for August 10, 2016

    Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • How California screwed itself:

    Then-Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature had quietly, virtually without notice, decreed a massive, retroactive increase in state employee pension benefits, which was quickly emulated by hundreds of local governments.

    At the time, CalPERS was ringing up big earnings from the 1990s’ bullish stock market — so big that it had reduced contributions from member governments to near zero. Public employee unions hankered for a share of the bounty and pressed for a benefit increase.

    The CalPERS board, dominated by public employees and union-friendly politicians, sponsored the increase, Senate Bill 400, with assurances that it would cost taxpayers nothing. A state Senate analysis of the bill said CalPERS “believes they will be able to mitigate this cost increase through continued excess returns of the CalPERS trust.”

    Years later, it emerged that the assurances reflected the most optimistic of several scenarios developed by the CalPERS staff. More pessimistic scenarios were kept secret — but they were the ones that came true. By the time Seeling delivered his dark appraisal in 2009, the state was being hammered by an ultra-severe recession, and the CalPERS trust fund was losing what turned out to be nearly $100 billion in value.

    Seven years later, CalPERS and other pension funds still haven’t fully recovered, and they’re sharply raising mandatory “contributions” from state and local governments to cover the gaps left by meager investment earnings.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • California is deluding itself if it thinks it’s “turned to corner” and is on the path for sustainable growth:

    Between 2000 and 2015, Austin has increased its jobs by 50 percent, while Raleigh, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Nashville, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix and Salt Lake City – all in lower-tax, regulation-light states – have seen job growth of 24 percent or above. In contrast, since 2000, Los Angeles and San Francisco expanded jobs by barely 10 percent. San Jose, the home of Silicon Valley, has seen only a 6 percent expansion over that period.

    Obviously this runs counter to the notion of California being business friendly, since the ratio of jobs to workers is lower here than in Texas and the rest of the United States, and sometimes a lot lower.

    Snip.

    Gov. Brown has achieved bragging rights by suggestions of a vaunted return to fiscal health. True, California’s short-term budgetary issues have been somewhat relieved, largely due to soaring capital gains from the tech and high-end real estate booms. But the state inevitably will face a soaring deficit as those booms slow down. Brown is already forecasting budget deficits as high as $4 billion by the time he leaves office in 2019. As a recent Mercatus Center study notes, California is among the states most deeply dependent on debt.

    The state’s current budget surplus is entirely due to a temporary tax and booming asset markets. The top 1 percent of earners generates almost half of California’s income tax revenue, and accounts for 41 percent of the state’s general fund budget. These affluent people have incomes that are much more closely correlated to asset prices than economic activity, and asset prices are more volatile than economic activity generally. Brown’s own Department of Finance predicts that a recession of “average magnitude” would cut revenue by $55 billion.

    More critically, the state continues to increase spending, particularly on pensions. Outlays have grown dramatically since the 2011-2012 fiscal year, averaging 7.8 percent growth per year through FY 2015-2016. Seeing the writing on the wall, the state’s labor leaders now want to extend the “temporary” income tax, imposed in 2012, until 2030. This might not do much to spark growth, particularly in a weaker economy.

    During this recovery, California has made minimal effort to eliminate the state’s budget fragility. To use a recently popular term, this is gross negligence. It is, thus, no surprise that credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service ranked California second from the bottom in being able to withstand the next recession. Someday the bills will come due.

  • More on California’s business climate vs. Texas:

    Note that across the entire decade the unemployment rate in California was consistently greater than that in the United States, averaging 1.5 percentage points greater overall and maxing out at 2.9 percentage points in January and February of 2011. Except for the first six months of 2006, the same story holds true for California and Texas, although the differences here are more pronounced: an average of 2.5 percentage points greater and a maximum difference of 4.2 percentage points at various points in 2009 and 2010. Also note how long double-digit unemployment persisted in California (43 months) during this decade compared to the United States (1 month) and Texas (0 months).

    Also: “Texas outperformed California in 9 of the 10 years. And Texas had a CAGR of 3.1 percent, meaning its economy grew at more than twice the pace of California’s each year.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Texas’ economic, labor Market, and fiscal situation. “The Texas model leads comparable states and U.S> averages in most measures.”
  • “CalPERS has not met its expected 7.5% rate of return for the last 20 years.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Things in Texas are very different than they were in the 1980s:

    This is what Krugman and others really get wrong about the Texas miracle.

    The state had its last major recession from 1986 to 1987, after oil prices collapsed and the real estate and financial sectors crashed. Back then, the mining sector, dominated by oil and gas activity, was directly related to about 21 percent of the real private economy and roughly 5 percent of the labor force. Today, mining is 15 percent of the real private economy and less than half of the labor force share. As a result, the combination of more economic diversification and pro-growth policies has produced a much more resilient economy. Texas in 2016 looks a lot different than Texas in 1987.

  • “A major impediment to economic growth and a factor chasing people and businesses away from California is the state’s high tax rates and poorly structured tax code. California levies the highest top marginal income tax rate in the nation at 13.3% and has the country’s 6th highest overall tax burden. Such a hostile tax climate has consequences. During the last decade, from 2000 to 2010, California had a net outmigration of over 1.2 million residents move to other states. Those former Californians took over $29 billion in income with them.”

    Residents of San Diego, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and many other cities and towns across California enjoy beautiful scenery and enviably pleasant weather year round; while folks in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston ride out their hot and humid summers by staying indoors as much as possible. Yet Texas has been the number one recipient of California refugees. While the physical climates found in states that are the top recipients of California refugees don’t hold a candle to the Golden State’s, the business tax climates are far more hospitable.

    California imposes the nation’s highest income tax, while Texas is one of nine states with no income tax. While Texas has the 10th best business tax climate in the nation, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, California has the country’s third worst. During the last decade, over 225,000 people moved from California to Texas, bringing over $4.4 billion in income with them to the Lone Star State. After Texas, Nevada is the number two recipient of ex-Californians. Like Texas, Nevada can’t compete with California’s natural beauty and climate, but the Silver State makes up for it by having no state income tax and the nation’s 5th best business tax climate.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • The deregulated energy market is still working to lower costs for Texans.
  • California’s Democrat-dominated local governments are riddled with nepotism in their hiring practices. In San Diego, “Investigators uncovered an employee vetting process they allege was ‘abused’ — so that in a third of the cases reviewed, ‘friends and family members’ of city staff were hired ‘to the detriment of public job applicants.’” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Liberal complains about how San Francisco’s progressive policies killed affordable housing. “Instead of forming a pro-growth coalition with business and labor, most of the San Francisco Left made an enduring alliance with home-owning NIMBYs. It became one of the peculiar features of San Francisco that exclusionary housing politics got labeled “progressive.” Do note this piece is from a year ago. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Speaking of San Francisco, three of the city’s supervisors have decided that he would like to take the goose that laid the golden egg (i.e., the city’s high tech employers), smother it with locally source rosemary, thyme and organic butter, and broil it at 450° in the form of a payroll tax for those companies that earn $1 million or more in gross receipts.
  • “In 2014 there were 142,417 housing starts in the city of Tokyo (population 13.3m, no empty land), more than the 83,657 housing permits issued in the state of California (population 38.7m).” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • “California To Proclaim August “Muslim Appreciation And Awareness Month.” So when do we get Christian Appreciation Month?
  • “Relocation of Highway 99 in Fresno, a key part of the bullet train project, is over budget, behind schedule and will cost millions of dollars more to complete.” (Hat tip: Cal Watchdog.)
  • DAE Systems is relocating its headquarters to Catawba County and intends to create 46 new jobs and invest $6.8 million during the next three years, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office announced Monday. The California-based company, which is moving to Claremont, will receive a grant of up to $110,000 from the One North Carolina Fund that is dependent on the company meeting job-creation goals.”
  • Nothing says “adult oversight” quite like playing strip poker with teenage camp counselors. Take a bow, Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva! (Hat tip: Dwight, who also notes that Silva is a member of the criminal-ridden “Mayors Against illegal Guns.”)
  • Noted for the record: Mayor Silva comes up twice at the very top of Stockton real estate developer Dan Cort’s Facebook page. (Previously.)
  • Texas vs. California Update for June 28, 2016

    Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

    Welcome to another Texas vs. California update!

  • California’s skyrocketing housing costs, taxes prompt exodus of residents.” “During the 12 months ending June 30, the number of people leaving California for another state exceeded by 61,100 the number who moved here from elsewhere in the U.S.” Plus this: “The majority of the people we are seeing are moving to states that don’t have state income taxes.” And this “My husband’s salary would be in the six figures, but six figures is not enough to cover the rent, day care (and) food prices.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • The middle class can no longer afford to live in the Bay Area.
  • “Orange County’s public city employees earned $144,817 on average last year.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • In a completely unrelated story, lavish pension hikes have resulted in exploding levels of Orange County debt. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “City employees working full-time in Long Beach earned an average of $128,731 in total compensation last year.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “A survey of 45 cities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties shows the average full-time city worker received $127,730 in pay and benefits last year.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • On paper, Nevada County, California, is technically insolvent (which is the best kind of insolvent.) (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • As good as Texas is doing compared to California’s profligacy, the people at the Texas Public Policy Foundation think the budget is still growing way too fast.
  • “Jacobs Engineering Group, one of the world’s largest engineering companies, is preparing to move employees from its Pasadena [CA] headquarters to Dallas, becoming the latest major corporation to relocate significant operations from California to Texas.”
  • “A California-based orthopedic goods manufacturer and distributor has decided to move its Ohio-based distribution hub to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which will give the company a place to significantly expand operations and possibly relocate its West Coast headquarters. The company, Santa Paula, California-based Hely & Weber, has signed a lease totaling nearly 40,000 square feet of space at 755 Regent Blvd. in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.”
  • Still more companies leaving California. Plus why the “Bernie Sanders effect” will result in a veto-proof majority for Democrats in the California legislature. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Bankrupt San Bernardino, union fight over settlement payments.” Clip and save this headline, as you’ll be able to use it again and again over the coming years…
  • Marin County pension reformer launches GoFundMe campaign to sue the county over pension increases. Though his $198,000 request strikes me as excessively optimistic…
  • Texas scores three of the top five cities (Houston, Austin, San Antonio) for U-Haul destinations. (Hat tip: Ted Cruz on Facebook.)
  • California Democrats and Social Justice Warriors conspire to drive Christian colleges out of the state. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Once again, California leads the nation…in car thefts.
  • Which lead to this: “More than 71 percent of all recovered stolen cars in 2005 in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California were stolen by illegal aliens or by ‘transport coyotes,’ those who bring in illegals across the Mexican border.”
  • “Paul Tanaka, once one of the most powerful law enforcement officials in Los Angeles County, was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison for interfering with an FBI investigation into jail abuses by sheriff’s deputies.” (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Oakland police chief resigns because at least 14 Oakland police officers (and 10 other law enforcement officers had sex with the same underage girl. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • And the guy Oakland found to replace him? He lasted…five days.
  • Bay Area law enforcement agencies have lost 944 guns since 2010. Maybe that’s the “gun control” Democrats should be focusing on… (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Californians face rolling blackouts this summer…some of which could last as much as 14 days.
  • Shuttered California hospital files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  • You could count this Silicon Valley robot pizza technology startup as a win for California, but the subtext here as that many human California pizza workers will never work a day under that new $15 minimum wage…
  • Texas vs. California Update for April 18, 2016

    Monday, April 18th, 2016

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup, with the top news being California’s hastening their economic demise with a suicidal minimum wage hike:

  • Jerry Brown admits the minimum wage hike doesn’t make economic sense, then signs it anyway. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Who is really behind the minimum wage hike? The SEIU:

    California’s drive to hike the minimum wage has little to do with average workers and everything to do with the Golden State’s all-powerful government employee unions.

    Nationally, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is known for representing lower skilled workers. But, of the SEIU’s 2.1 million dues-paying members, half work for the government. In California, that translates to clout with much of the $50 million SEIU spent in the U.S. on political activities and lobbying spent in California. In fact, out of the 12 “yes” votes for the minimum wage bill in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations on March 30, the SEIU had contributed almost $100,000 out of the three-quarters of a million contributed by public employee unions—yielding a far higher return on investment than anything Wall Street could produce.

    Unions represent about 59 percent of all government workers in California. Many union contracts are tied to the minimum wage — boost the minimum wage and government union workers reap a huge windfall, courtesy of the overworked California taxpayer.

  • “The impacts of the increase in minimum wage on workers at the very bottom of the pay scales might be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ramifications of the minimum wage increase.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Indeed, that hike will push government employee wages up all up the ladder.
  • “California minimum wage hike hits L.A. apparel industry: ‘The exodus has begun.'” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Texas’ job creation has helped keep the unemployment rate low at 4.3 percent, which has now been at or below the U.S. average rate for a remarkable 111 straight months.”
  • “Number of Californians Moving to Texas Hits Highest Level in Nearly a Decade”:

    “California’s taxes and regulations are crushing businesses, and there are more opportunities in Texas for people to start new companies, get good jobs, and create better lives for their families,” said Nathan Nascimento, the director of state initiatives at Freedom Partners. “When tax and regulatory climates are bad, people will move to better economic environments—this phenomenon isn’t a mystery, it’s how marketplaces work. Not only should other state governments take note of this, but so should the federal government.”

    According to Tom Gray of the Manhattan Institute, people may be leaving California for the employment opportunities, tax breaks, or less crowded living arrangements that other states offer.

    “States with low unemployment rates, such as Texas, are drawing people from California, whose rate is above the national average,” Gray wrote. “Taxation also appears to be a factor, especially as it contributes to the business climate and, in turn, jobs.”

    “Most of the destination states favored by Californians have lower taxes,” Gray wrote. “States that have gained the most at California’s expense are rated as having better business climates. The data suggest that may cost drivers—taxes, regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs—are prompting businesses to locate outside California, thus helping to drive the exodus.”

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • More on the same theme. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • It’s not just pensions: “The state paid $458 million in 2001 (0.6 percent of the general fund) for state worker retiree health care and is expected to pay $2 billion (1.7 percent of the general fund) next fiscal year — up 80 percent in just the last decade.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Texas border control succeeds where the Obama Administration fails. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • California and New York still lead Texas in billionaires. But for how long?
  • “The housing bubble may have collapsed, but the public-employee pension fund managers are still with us. If anything they’re bigger than ever, still insatiably seeking high returns just over the horizon line of another economic bubble.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • How to fix San Francisco’s dysfunctional housing market. “Failed public policy and political leadership has resulted in a massive imbalance between how much the city’s population has grown this century versus how much housing has been built. The last thirteen years worth of new housing units built is approximately equal to the population growth of the last two years.” Also: “The city is forcing people out. Only the rich can live here because of the policies created by so-called progressives and so-called housing advocates.” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • UC Berkley to cut 500 jobs over two years.
  • What does BART do faced with a $400 million projected deficit over the next decade? Dig deeper. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Stanton, California, is the latest California municipality facing bankruptcy. “One of the main reasons the city can’t pay its bills without the sales tax is that it gives outlandish salaries and benefits to its government workers.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Yesterday was Tax Freedom Day in Texas.
  • Politically correct investing has already cost CalPERS $3 billion. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “A federal jury on Wednesday convicted former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka of deliberately impeding an FBI investigation, capping a jail abuse and obstruction scandal that reached to the top echelons of the Sheriff’s Department.” (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Top California Democratic assemblyman Roger Hernandez accused of domestic violence.
  • Calls for UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi to resign, she of the supergenius “pay $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative postings about the pepper-spraying of students in 2011” plan.
  • California beachwear retailer Pacific Sunwear files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • California retailer Sport Chalet is also shutting down.
  • 75% of current Toyota employees are willing to move to Texas to work at Toyota’s new U.S. headquarters.
  • California isn’t the only place delusional politicians are pushing a “railroad to nowhere.” The Lone Star Rail District wants to keep getting and spending money despite the fact that Union Pacific said they couldn’t use their freight lines for a commuter train between Austin and San Antonio. The tiny little problem being that the Union Pacific line was the only one under consideration…
  • Texas vs. California Update for March 24, 2016

    Thursday, March 24th, 2016

    Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • California’s underfunded pension debts put it $175.1 billion in the red. “More than 51 percent ($89.9 billion) of the negative $175.1 billion consists of unfunded, employee-related, long-term liabilities.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • A initiative to hike California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour has made the ballot. Also known as the “Send as much business as possible to Texas” act.
  • Speaking of which, Texas’ unemployment rate fell to 4.5% in January.
  • Germany and Sweden have lower median incomes than Texas. Indeed, were Germany and Sweden to join the union, they would instantly be among the poorest states.
  • Big Government advocates in California are fighting to renew a “temporary tax” on all those millionaires earning $250,000 or more a year. “The extension measure is again supported by the California Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union.”
  • California traffic fines have turned into a huge tax on the poor. “California is filled with people who are one traffic ticket away from losing their means of independent transportation. They get a ticket for a busted taillight or a small-change moving violation. On paper, the fine is $100, but with surcharges, it adds up to a lot more.” Which is why they’re having an amnesty to pay a reduced rate on outstanding tickets. But there’s a catch: “The practice of throwing in extra sources of revenue is so ingrained in Sacramento that there is a $50 amnesty program fee.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Fresno’s pension system “is the only public pension program in California – and one of only a few in the United States – that has a surplus instead of unfunded pension liabilities.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “When unfunded pension, medical and other liabilities are formally included on its balance sheet, the [Orange County] Fire Authority’s debts exceeded its assets by $169 million for the fiscal year that ended in June,” the Register’s OC Watchdog wrote. “That’s a plunge of more than 680 percent in its ‘net position,’ or more than $420 million, over a single year.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California has a problem cutting pensions even when they’re going to convicted felons. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Assisted suicide becomes legal in California June 9.
  • How long will California continue to consider itself part of the United States? (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Over 200 BART employees earned over $200,000 a year in total compensation.
  • California’s already long-delayed and already over-budget high speed rail fantasy is planning to put much of the initial segment underground due to community and environmental concerns. Problem: Digging those tunnels will probably cost $1 billion a mile.
  • California short-hauler Total Transportation Services Inc. files for bankruptcy.
  • “The parent company of Carl’s Jr., founded in Anaheim 60 years ago, is relocating its California headquarters to Nashville, Tenn.”
  • Kohl’s is closing nine stores in California, out of 18 total closing nationwide (none in Texas).
  • On the other hand, Sports Authority is closing slightly more stores in Texas (24) than California (19). Meh. I liked the stores more when they were Oshman’s…
  • California’s Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc., which manufactures and sells fuel systems and storage tanks for vehicles fitted for compressed natural gas, filed for bankruptcy. The fact the company has already gone through two reverse splits suggests long-running troubles…
  • Of course, being in Texas won’t prevent some municipalities of spending like they’re in California: San Antonio to spend almost $100,000 on a toilet.
  • Likewise, Houston’s credit rating been downgraded by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s due to “the city’s large unfunded pension liability.” Maybe former Houston Mayor Annise Parker should have spent more time on trimming expenses and fixing crummy surface streets than suing churches and tranny bathrooms…
  • Republican Lujan Beats Democrat Urasti in Special Election for San Antonio State Rep District

    Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

    Well, I’m not sure many people saw this coming:

    Winning in a district long held by Democrats, Republican John Lujan outpolled Tomás Uresti in Tuesday’s special runoff in Texas House District 118.

    Filling a seat vacated last year by former state Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio, the GOP candidate will serve out the remainder of Farias’ unexpired term, through the end of the year.

    Another election is set for March 1 to fill the seat for a two-year term starting in 2017. Lujan and Uresti are seeking their parties’ nominations in that race, and each has a primary opponent, so the winner won’t be decided until Nov. 8.

    “The district with about 87,000 voters handed Lujan the win by a 171-vote margin.”

    State District 118 is three-quarters Hispanic and largely suburban/exurban, and in the 2012 election it went 60/40 for Democrat Joe Farias, who resigned in August. Why he resigned, triggering a special election, is a good question, as he had already announced he would not run for reelection this year, and the House is not scheduled to convene until 2017.

    Despite the fact that the district is going to be hard to hold in November, it’s still an impressive feat for Republicans to have captured it at all. Proving that Republicans can win in clear majority Hispanic districts, and forcing Democrats to devote the time and resources necessary to effectively contest the seat, counts as a big win.

    (Hat tip: Moe Lane.)

    LinkSwarm for August 31, 2015

    Monday, August 31st, 2015

    Welcome to the final week of traditional summer. Of course, it used to be that everything (school, football, the new TV year, etc.) started after Labor Day Weekend, but that’s not the case any more…

  • “it’s cute to pretend that Black Lives Matter is actually about making policing better when it’s really just another Democratic party constituency agitprop group.”
  • Texas mandates E-Verify for all state employees.
  • Ten questions about the Iran deal.
  • Indeed, the Iran deal stinks so badly that even Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to keep the stink of Eue De Failure off herself and the DNC. (Hat tip: Moe Lane.)
  • Europe has begun to reform its welfare systems. (Hat tip Instpundit.)
  • Thanks to government efforts, heroin is now cheaper than cigarettes in New York City. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • McCarthy critic turns out to be a Soviet spy. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • UK Labour leader candidate Jeremy Corbyn: Apologist for oppressive dictatorships.
  • Oh, and he wants to give the Falkland Islands to Argentina. Why, it’s almost as if the hard left yearns for nothing so much as undoing every conservative foreign policy triumph out of spite…
  • And he also called Osama Bin Laden’s death “a tragedy.”
  • Criticizing Muslim antisemitism? That’s a $750 fine in Denmark.
  • Widespread street protests in Kuala Lumpur over corruption and embezzlement by Malaysia’s Goldman-Sachs-underwritten Prime Minister.
  • Still another reason not to use Ashley-Madison: “For every 7750 men, there were 3 women.” “Sausage Fest” doesn’t even begin to cover it…
  • Speaking of sausage, San Antonio woman steals $3000 worth of sausage.
  • Conservatives push back on victimhood identity politics guidelines from the College Board and win.
  • Austin Bag Ban backfires. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • A look back at 1945 plans for the invasion of Japan. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Ten years of Tam.
  • Texas vs. California Update for September 17, 2014

    Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • The Texas economy continues to hum along:

    During the second quarter, Texas employers added 148,200 net nonfarm jobs—an average of 49,400 per month. This amounts to an 18 percent share of all jobs created nationwide over this period in a state with only 8 percent of the country’s population and about 10 percent of total economic output. Over the last year, the addition of 382,200 net jobs in Texas was more new jobs than any other state. These employment gains increased the annual job growth rate to 3.4 percent, which is higher than those of the national average and other highly populated states.

  • The city of Los Angeles is at an impasse over police raises: the police union (naturally) wants raises, while the city says they can’t afford them. So what happens next? The issue goes before the Employee Relations Board, which just happens to be packed with union-approved appointees. In one-party Democratic cities and states, it’s always government together with unions against taxpayers. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “The ugly reality is that so long as the boards of CalPERS and CalSTRS are controlled by public employee union loyalists, pension reforms enacted by state lawmakers and signed by governors will never live up to their billing.”
  • Jerry Brown lies about pension spiking.
  • Why San Antonio’s public-private partnerships are better at dealing with drought than Los Angeles.
  • A FAQ on Costa Mesa’s pension situation. Including answers to such questions as “How could the $228 million in unfunded pension liabilities affect the city budget?”
  • Watsonville, California passes a sales tax hike solely to pay for additional union pension payments.
  • A judge rules that bankrupt San Bernardino can cut firefighter pension benefits in order to exit bankruptcy.
  • A union-sponsored bill tries to increase liabilities for companies that hire contractors.
  • California is evidently cooking up a whole new batch of unconstitutional gun laws.
  • A look at phony baloney jobs numbers for California’s high speed rail boondoggle.
  • Firefly Space Systems is relocating from California to Burnet County, Texas. “King said Firefly was attracted to Texas partly because of its business and regulatory climate.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out California offers a lousy climate for business. Or to put it another way: My days of underestimating California’s ability to improve its business climate are certainly coming to a middle…
  • Drone-maker Ashima is relocating to Reno, Nevada from California.
  • If you hadn’t heard, Tesla is building its battery factory in Nevada, not California.
  • An actual good law out of California: A law that prevents companies from suing customers for negative reviews.
  • North Carolina offered twice as much incentive money to Toyota but still lost out to Texas for relocating their HQ.
  • Your dedicated BART employee in action: