LONG BEACH (CBS) — The mayor of Long Beach warned on Wednesday that the skyrocketing cost of public employee pensions in California is making city budgets unsustainable.

Speaking at a pension policy forum entitled “Is California Headed for a Super Storm of Unfunded Pension Liabilities”, Mayor Bob Foster said it’s time to end finger-pointing and do something now to ease what’s become an increasingly nationwide epidemic.

KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore reports with city coffers more than $1 billion short on funds, Foster has been meeting with employees unions to negotiate a potential fix.

Despite ongoing talks, Foster says there’s been little progress so far toward putting more of the cost on workers and extending the retirement age.

With tensions flaring all across the country over public pensions, the webcast opened the forum to state and local viewers to participate in the discussion by submitting questions via Twitter.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (16)
  1. Clara Morrison says:

    I don’t understand when union workers talk about their “rights” taken away. How is it a right to take money from my pocket to fund your own retiremnent or health benefits?

    1. Rich says:

      It is a right because the services and futures of union workers are as important as your future is to you. If your employer is looking out for your future, terrific. There are many employers out there whose conduct forced the formation of unions because many said employers failed to look out for their own employees. If employers had integrity to start with, unions would be unnecessary.

      If you’re unsympathetic to union workers rights, I respect that. But you have the very same right to join or to create a union for yourself and your employees if you feel your rights and future and workplace are not being addressed.

      1. Mikey says:

        Just because you want something dosnot make it a right.

      2. julie says:

        You are so right Rich & Fish Wrap!!! My husband was offered his pension as a benefit when he was hired for his job. Clara, if you wanted a job that offered this benefit then you should have sought such a job. For all of you griping about pensions, look somewhere else where it really hits your pockets!!!

        Municipalities are good at shifting money around in funds that the public is not privy to. They seem to be able to come up with money for whatever special interest or matter they deem necessary. Interesting that pensions are the hot topic now especially in light of the revelations that have come out in the Cities of Bell and Upland, and no doubt there are more to come. Municipalities are just taking the focus off of them and their mismanagement of public funds that now have them scrambling to fix their budget deficits. It’s always fattest at the top of the heap but those expenses are not cut, it’s always down towards the bottom.

        We should also be looking at our elected officials in the Federal Government, after all, don’t these individuals have lifetime medical and retirement benefits for their public service? These are the very people who are not affected by this economy and can very well afford these types of benefits out of their own pockets.

      3. TT says:

        I understand and agree, and my family was all union when i was growing up…- but while you receive the benefits when things are good- you should also have the responcibility of riding out the hardships – when things arent good – because you have enjoyed the benefits, doesnt mean you get to iilliminate yourself from hard times as well…… – road goes both ways…

  2. Jerry Fink says:

    No one wants to give up anything but THERE IS NO MONEY! EVERYBODY has to sacrifice in this economy. Everyone and everything needs to downsize and it will be that way for a LONG time to come.
    Our government has pushed for a globalized economy for decades and now that we have it we have to be equal to everyone else.
    We knocked ourselves right off the pedestal!

    1. Sean T says:

      Isn’t it amazing that people just don’t seem to get it.

      You nailed it.

      There’s no money to pay it. Period.

      Everyone says ok to cuts until it cuts their program and then they all whine that you can’t cut that one.

      Then maybe we won’t cut anything and we can just go bankrupt and deteriorate into anarchy. That’d be a great idea.

    2. J says:

      There is no money…except that the rich are literally getting richer right now while they claim we all need to tighten our belts. I agree, we all do need to. Except if that’s the time that the rich prosper at an even higher rate (which they are), then we’re fools for simply saying OK. So not everybody is sacrificing. And that is the problem with your argument. You’re not all wrong, but it’s not union workers at fault. P.S. I am not in a union nor have I ever been.

    3. julie says:

      No one wants to give up anything???? Are you kidding? We have and are sacrificing by way of our taxes, our homes, our jobs, bail out money to the banks, wall street’s greed… Shall I go on?

  3. fish wrap says:

    Quit bashing the pensions. The problem is all city and state leaders over estimated revenues and over spent and the pensions ate an easy target. They say the pensions are unfunded they there are now if everyone retired at once. How about cut everything funded to illegals budget problem solved. And to all the idiots saying they are tired of their taxes going to pensions I got news for you we all pay taxes.

    1. SNMFX says:

      We need to cut funding to the school you graduated from.

    2. Buck says:

      I agree cut off illegals and we will prib have s surplus. Prob is most illegals legal families here are democrat. If they cut off them demorats lose

  4. Mikey says:

    It is not the duty for employers to look after the retirement or healthcare of employees. Employers offer a benifit packadge as part of a wage. If you dont like the wages an employer offers, it is up to the free will of the employee to seek a better wage elsewear.

    1. J says:

      I agree. Except it is their duty once they agreed to do it. You’re giving the employer a free pass because “times are tough.” Should the employer also save/plan better? Also, regarding free will to move on. It’s also your free will to fight for what you want. Don’t just be a quitter and move on to a different job. If we are valuable, then we should fight for our value, and fight to keep our jobs from going overseas. But employers would gladly do that if they could to cut costs. All while price gouging us and using subsidies on top of that.

  5. Choo Choo says:

    People, people, come on! You know the state, the county, and the cities in California and in many other states are as broke as the Federal Government. If you think you will still retire with a fat pension, either from a public sector job or even a private corporation, think again.

    The goose that laid the golden egg has flown the coop. If you don’t have savings to take care of yourself you are in for a rough retirement because you’ll get little or nothing from where you though you would. Why?

    The elite international banksters and Wall Street scheisters made sure they stole all your money. The government handed it to them in bailouts and will again. You are left with jack. Oil it up and rub it down, because that’s all that is left for you—-your own pleasure stick.

  6. J says:

    I understand why people don’t like unions…kinda. I am not part of one, but why do people not like it if employees come together to get as much of the pie as they can. We praise corporations for their capitalistic instincts, but as soon as employees come together for form a union it’s suddenly a cesspool of greed (as though gov’t and corporations are any less corrupt). Isn’t it really the same thing? Many of our public employees choose to go into teaching, etc. because they know long term the benefits are worth it even though they maybe won’t make as much initially. Why are they suddenly the problem? It seems to me our fight should be against corporations that skirt the laws, avoid paying taxes, bribe…er lobby politicians and get subsidies while still over charging us and making the workplace literally life threatening (BP gulf disaster anyone?). I’m not saying we shouldn’t make the unions bend, but why do they get all of our anger plus action, whereas we just whine about corporations getting away with what they get away with. Isn’t that the one thing we want government to be big in? Regulating the corporate cheaters? Just like we want them to regulate/weaken unions?

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