Six GOP Lawmakers Request Hearings on Inability of School Districts To Afford Retiree Health Benefits
A group of six Republican lawmakers on Wednesday asked Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) to convene hearings to examine the inability of school districts to afford the cost of health benefits for retirees, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
A recent report by the Legislative Analyst's Office found that school districts owe $17 billion in retiree health benefits and currently cannot cover the cost. According to the report, Los Angeles Unified School District owes $5 billion in health benefits for retirees, an amount equivalent to 80% of the general operating budget for the district.
In a letter to Nuñez and Perata, the six lawmakers wrote, "It is evident that our state school system is now facing a fiscal catastrophe as never seen before. The Legislature must act now to investigate the depth of the unfunded liability crisis." The lawmakers stated that the hearings are necessary because many school districts are unaware of the amounts that they owe for health benefits for retirees.
In addition, Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), one of the lawmakers who signed the letter, said that the hearings would raise attention to the issue and help school districts that do not have problems avoid them in the future.
LAUSD Director of Legislative and Government Affairs Vivian Castro said that the district would support the hearings. However, she said, "What we've heard so far is an explanation of the problem. I don't know that anyone has offered a viable solution" (Drucker, Los Angeles Daily News, 4/14).