The State Worker

Jon Ortiz chronicles civil-service life for California state workers

Credit firm says California pension measure’s demise bad for local governments’ credit

03/20/2014 4:51 PM

03/20/2014 4:51 PM

A Wall Street firm cautioned Thursday that the failure to put a pension measure before California voters has negative implications for local governments facing higher retirement benefit bills.

Moody’s Investors Service said Mayor Chuck Reed’s decision to suspend his pension-change campaign is a “credit negative” for California agencies facing rapidly growing retirement benefit costs “with few tools to address them.” Moody’s declaration calls out pensions as one of many factors affecting agencies’ creditworthiness, but it’s not a ratings downgrade or change in the firm’s outlook.

Reed’s measure would have asked voters to change California’s constitution so that state and local agencies, under certain circumstances, could freeze accrued pension benefits and the cut them going forward. He ended efforts to put the proposal on the ballot last week after losing a court fight over the official description of the measure, but plans to bring it back in 2016.

The Weekly Credit Outlook on public finances notes that pension costs among Moody’s-rated local agencies in California increased an average 14 percent from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2012. “(A)bsent pension reform, we expect this rate of increase to continue for the next several years,” the firm predicted.

About This Blog

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at jortiz@sacbee.com or 916-321-1043. Twitter: @TheStateWorker.

 

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