On the hook

Dec 22, 2014


One term that wafted through the Capitol for years is "unfunded liability," that sterile euphemism for being on the hook for big bucks. And when it comes to pensions, we're talking very big bucks indeed. Not for those who get 'em, but for those who promised to pay 'em.  Calpensions' Ed Mendel takes a look.


"The debt or “unfunded liability” state Controller John Chiang reported last week for state worker retiree health care, $72 billion, is larger than the unfunded liability for state worker pensions reported by CalPERS in April, $50 billion."


"It’s a legislative legacy, a debt for state worker services received by one generation that lawmakers decided to let the next generations inherit."


Getting imprisoned is bad enough, and getting imprisoned falsely is even worse. But being cleared by DNA testing and then being unable to get compensation for the mistaken incarceration has got to be hard to take.


From the LAT's Molly Hennessy-Fiske: "Under a state law intended to compensate those wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit, Madrigal appeared to qualify for $281,700 from the state of California."


"In the five years since his release, he has argued his case before a state hearing officer and a state compensation board. But though a federal judge found "compelling evidence" that he was "actually innocent," Madrigal has been paid nothing."


In another detailed, lengthy tale of the Bay Bridge bolts, it turns out that the same firm that did the Bay Bridge also did a wind farm in the UK -- which also suffered from bad welds.


From the Bee's Charles Piller: "Both were built between 2008 and 2011 in the same Shanghai, China, factory complex. Each suffered from mistakes by inadequately trained Chinese welders. Thousands of welds in the towers for the 140 giant wind turbines cracked. Hundreds of welds in the Bay Bridge roadway cracked, too. Both were contracted and managed by Fluor Corp., an Irving, Texas-based construction firm – by itself for the wind farm, and in a joint venture with Corapolis, Pa.-based American Bridge Co. for the Bay Bridge."


Riding the bullet train could be a lot more fun and less of a hassle than air travel. That's not hard to believe, since just about anything is more fun and less of a hassle than taking a plane and, worse, going through the airports.


From the LAT's George Skelton: "No torturous, long security lines. No stripping off your belts and shoes. No pat-downs or X-rays. No inhuman stares. No re-dressing.

Instead, Welcome Aboard."


"Use the tray table anytime. No need for a seatbelt. Recline and relax."


"Granted, there is still a caboose load of questions about this $68-billion project, which is projected to cost double what voters were promised back in 2008 when they approved $9 billion in bonds to help build a 500-mile high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco."


One issue that is heating up is whether students -- and the students' parents -- are getting their money's worth in higher education, following yet another round of tuition increases. The Obama administration is putting together a ranking system of schools that includes such things as proportion of students graduated, loan repayments and post-graduation income.


From the LAT's Larry Gordon: "Without committing to any criteria, the U.S. Department of Education listed factors that it said could wind up in the final ratings system expected to be completed by the start of the 2015-16 school year. Those included the average net price after financial aid, federal loan defaults, the percentages of students who are low-income and the first in their families to attend college, and enrollment in graduate programs."


"Officials emphasized that any grading system would not numerically rank schools or assign them A-F grades but instead would probably place them in such categories as high-performing, average or low. Special attention would be given to schools that improve."


And, finally, from our Romance is Everywhere file, comes word that you should be very, very cautious the next time you're enjoying a fling in the outdoors. Romance is indeed everywhere -- but so are prying eyes.


"Make sure to watch the skies. Someone might be filming you... and it might even be these guys."


"Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci of Ghost + Cow Films shot "Drone Boning" in a matter of days in Northern California. They stopped by the Weird News offices in New York to talk about their actors, the sex positions they had them do, the (truly horrifying) noises they made, and the perils of outdoor fornication in the age of aerial surveillance."


Only in California ....