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Government & Politics

California Legislature to Tackle Teacher Retirement Fund Debt

Andrew Nixon
Capital Public Radio

Some lawmakers say it’s time to get serious about paying down debt accrued by California's teachers’ retirement system. But, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, that will take a big financial commitment.

Assembly Democrats say they’re ready to look for ways to pay down the unfunded liability of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. The governor’s office puts the debt at more than $80 billion.

Speaker John Perez says the Assembly will begin hearings on the issue.

Perez: “We’ve got to look at the actuarial information, bring people in. As the market continues to improve the level of underfunding goes down. But we know that in of itself won’t be the solution. So we have to look at what the range of those things are.”

Perez says the solution must involve increased contributions from the state, school districts and teachers.

Autumn Carter is Executive Director of California Common Sense, a government transparency group. She says hearings are a good first step.

Carter: “But we can’t ignore that fact that securing CALSTRS will mean setting aside an additional $4.5 billion to that unfunded liability every year for the next three decades. Anything significantly less than that is like trying to hammer a nail with a toothpick.”

Carter says the CALSTRS unfunded liability has been a growing concern the past decade and is currently increasing by $22 million a day.

Governor Jerry Brown had proposed working on a solution next year, but, in a statement, his department of finance says Brown will work with the legislature during this session.

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