The state of California's real unfunded pension debt clocks in at more than $500 billion, nearly eight times greater than officially reported.
That's the finding from a study released Monday by Stanford University's public policy program, confirming a recent report with similar, stunning findings from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.
To put that number in perspective, it's almost seven times greater than all the outstanding voter-approved state general obligation bonds in California.
Why should Californians care? Because this year's unfunded pension liability is next year's budget cut to important programs. For a glimpse of California's budgetary future, look no further than the $5.5 billion diverted this year from higher education, transit, parks and other programs in order to pay just a tiny bit toward current unfunded pension and healthcare promises. That figure is set to triple within 10 years and -- absent reform -- to continue to grow, crowding out funding for many programs vital to the overwhelming majority of Californians.
Raising taxes isn't going to solve this alone. We *have* to cut government spending. That means cutting some government programs. I do not understand why liberals refuse to accept that.
What can we do about this? For the promises already made, nothing. They are contractual, and because that $500 billion of debt must be paid, retirement costs will rise dramatically no matter what we do. But we can reduce the sizes of promises made to new employees and require full and truthful disclosure so that pension debt can never again be hidden.
The governor tried that a few years ago, with a ballot initiative in a special election. The CTA clucked with glee when they fought that initiative and it lost. Good job, u-bots. Let's kill that goose and see if we can still get golden eggs.