Dr. Jinping Sun, faculty member of the Public Policy & Administration Department, was selected to present her paper titled, “The Sustainability of Public Pensions in California,” at the 2011 national conference of the Association for Budgeting & Financial Management. Submitted papers are competitively selected for the conference. Sun’s research was the topic of her 2011 sabbatical award.
Research Abstract: The past few years have witnessed the rise of local ballot measures in California to limit public employee retirement benefits. What has happened to pension plans in California? Why is there such an attitude change towards public pensions? This paper, based on a survey of California cities, intends to investigate if public pensions have become unsustainable particularly in the face of the recent recession. The research shows city governments in California are facing both financial and social issues concerning their pension plans. To deal with the problems, cities have adopted strategies to reduce pension benefits, increase employee contributions, cut costs in other areas, and take other measures. Cities also have seen the use of the initiative process to control pension costs, balance their budgets and maintain fiscal sustainability.