Categories
Archives
Please donate any amount you can to help us try to recover legal costs in defending liberty and the right of free speech !

Archive for the ‘Budgets’ Category

Large California city heads to bankruptcy court

Stockton
By outward appearances, Stockton, a city of nearly 300,000 on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, seemed in the mid-2000s to be emerging from decades of struggle.
Next to its gleaming downtown waterfront — a window to the West’s largest fresh-water estuary — a beautiful new $46 million glass hockey arena rose in 2005. That same year, an Oakland A’s minor league baseball team began play in a new taxpayer-financed stadium, amenities sought by elected officials catering to a wave of new residents fleeing Bay Area congestion and soaring home prices.
High salaries and lucrative benefits were supposed to attract and retain the brightest city workforce to improve the quality of life for its residents. “We spent like the good times would go on forever,” said Stockton spokeswoman Connie Cochrane.
But then the recession hit, and the good times went bust. On Monday, California’s 13th-largest city begins federal court proceedings that could end with it becoming the most populous city in the U.S. to successfully enter bankruptcy, a move opposed by those who lent the money to keep it flush.
On its journey to this point, the Central Valley city has become emblematic of both government excess and the financial calamity that resulted when the nation’s housing bubble burst. Its salaries, benefits and borrowing were based on anticipated long-term developer fees and increasing property tax revenue. But those were lost in a flurry of foreclosures.
After the city’s population grew by nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2005 and real estate tripled in value, home prices plummeted 40 percent the following year before bottoming out at 70 percent.
Within two years, Stockton had accumulated nearly $1 billion in debt on civic improvements, money owed to pay pension contributions and the most generous health care benefits in the state — coverage for life for all retirees plus a dependent no matter how long they had worked for the city.
“It’s not realistic to think that something like that could be sustained indefinitely,” Cochrane said.
Today, its largest creditors are the companies that in 2007, after the economy began to contract, insured the bonds that funded the city’s over-extended pension obligations.
The city’s deal was risky from the start, said Jeffrey Michael, who as director of the business forecasting center at University of the Pacific has studied the city’s struggles.
“It was like refinancing your house and dumping the proceeds into the Wall Street market and hoping your earnings go up faster than the interest rate on your loan,” he said.
By 2009, the city began slashing its budget to stay afloat. The police department lost 25 percent of its 441 sworn officers and the fire department was cut by 30 percent. City staff was cut by 40 percent. The city general fund budget, now $155 million, has been cut by $90 million over three years.
The impacts were felt everywhere. Wells Fargo bank seized three parking garages when the city defaulted on the $32 million in bonds that financed them. Bond holders also seized the $40 million downtown high rise that was to become City Hall.
Stockton recorded its highest-ever number of murders in 2011 and 2012, and had three just last Sunday. Last year, an FBI analysis of violent crime made it the 10th most dangerous city in the U.S. Its unemployment rate is 17.5 percent, and it has the third-highest illiteracy rate in the country.
“We are fiscally insolvent, but service insolvent as well and that threatens our ability to attract new business, which we need to recover,” Cochrane said.
Last summer, the city began negotiating with creditors, a requirement before entering bankruptcy. Ten employee unions agreed to temporary wage and benefits cuts.
Retired employees have also been asked to pick up a larger share of health care premiums, closing a $540 million retiree health care cost liability.
But the holders of the biggest share of the debt were the companies that in 2007 insured nearly $165 million in pension bond obligations to allow the city a lower interest rate and make them stable for investors. They were unable to negotiate a deal and want the city to avoid bankruptcy, which would likely allow Stockton to avoid repaying the debts in full.
Officials for the largest creditor, Assured Guaranty, said the city offered them 17 to 18 cents on the dollar for bonds that run through 2048, a deal they plan to argue in court is unacceptable. They say the city should further cut costs and raise taxes and point to city subsidies for the arena and $7 million in uncollected parking tickets.
City politicians also lack the political fortitude to cut contributions to CalPERS, the public employee pension program, Assured officials say. Employees who shared in the wealth when times were flush ought to sacrifice when they are not, they say.
Stockton wants to cut its repayment of the pension bonds without reducing the liability itself, the attorneys wrote.
Those opposing bankruptcy say the city needs long-term wage concessions from public employees, not the one- and two-year deals that were negotiated. The pain must be shared among all debt holders, they argue.
“Stockton has budgeted itself into insolvency. It is now trying to cram down a plan on those it did not favor, instead of focusing on creating a fair, equitable and long-term plan for all stakeholders,” said Robert Tucker, managing director of Assured Guaranty.
Few people doubt the city will be successful at a four-day trial and enter bankruptcy, but that won’t be the end of litigation. If bankruptcy protection is approved, a federal bankruptcy judge would still have to decide whether Stockton’s bankruptcy plan is fair, or whether it singles out some groups to bear more of the financial burden than others.
“All of us have a stake in ensuring Stockton gets back on its feet,” said Tucker.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/24/large-california-city-heads-to-bankruptcy-court/#ixzz2P7Lvxph3

OBAMA GOVERNMENT SCREWS THE POST OFFICE GIVES SHIPPING TO UPS AND FED EX

By Ron Nixon USPS truck

WASHINGTON — Even the federal government turns to private shippers rather than the Postal Service when it wants to send packages.

A report from the agency’s inspector general said that since 2001, private companies like FedEx and United Parcel Service consistently had captured 98 percent of the revenue from long-term shipping contracts with the government because the financially troubled Postal Service did not have a sales staff or a strategy to focus on the federal sector until 2009.

The report said the Postal Service lost out on about $34 million in potential revenue over the past two years, a relatively small amount for an agency that reported $65 billion in revenue last year.However, officials at the inspector general’s office said the Postal Service, which had a net loss of $15.9 billion last year, could not afford to pass up opportunities to generate revenue and profit no matter how small.

“Every little bit helps,” said Agapi Doulaveris, a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office. “The purpose of our audits (is) to help them identify ways to do things better. Every opportunity we identify helps add to their bottom line.”

The report, released on Friday, examined two years of shipping contracts made through the General Services Administration, which buys goods and services for the federal government.

While federal shipping contracts totaled an estimated $336.9 million last year, the Postal Service earned only $4.8 million of that — less than 2 percent of the overall amount, the report found.

The post office’s ability to compete in the federal shipping market is hampered by several factors besides it late entry, the report found, including an inability to guarantee two- to three-day delivery service and to be as flexible in setting prices as its competitors.

Because of federal law, “the Postal Service cannot sell products below cost and make up the loss with other products or services to penetrate a market, attract new customers or match competitors’ prices,” the report found.

Postal officials, who did not address why the agency entered the federal shipping market years after their private competitors, said they were addressing the problems raised in the report. But the findings underscored the challenges the agency faces as it tries to find new ways to increase revenue to offset a long-term decline in mail volume.

Latest House Budget Proposal to Include Obamacare Repeal: Balances Budget in Ten Years

Foxnews.comBudget Cuts

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Sunday that his new budget includes the repeal of President Obama’s health-care reform law known as ObamaCare.

Ryan told “Fox News Sunday” that the new proposal will make enough cuts to balance the federal budget in 10 years, compared to his previous one that tried to achieve that goal in 25 years.

“We think we owe the American people a balanced budget,” the Republican congressman said.

Ryan said the focus of the ObamaCare repeal would be to stop the expansion of Medicaid, the federal program that provides medical services to low-income U.S. families.

“Our budget does promote repealing ObamaCare,” said Ryan, who was not clear whether his 2014 budget is based on a full repeal.

Ryan, the Republican 2012 vice presidential nominee, said he wants states to run Medicaid through federal block grants.

Ryan said his proposal attempts to reach a balanced budget, in part, by slowing the rate of federal spending from 4.9 percent to 3.4 percent. Other parts include consolidating federal job-training programs and reforming the federal Food Stamp program to ensure only qualified applicants receive the benefits.

“I’ve very confident this is the way to go,” said Ryan, whose budget would have a better chance of passing the Republican-controlled House than the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Where Could We POSSIBLY Cut the Federal Budget?

by Amy PayneBudget-Cuts
If you had to cut your family’s budget, where would you cut?
Would you immediately start starving your children and stop wearing shoes? Of course not. You would look at the extras in your life—whether they were coffee shop lattes, movie tickets, or restaurant meals.
It’s a good thing the President wouldn’t be handling your budget. As Dan Holler of our sister organization, Heritage Action for America, has said: “If President Obama were making the decision for your family… he’d tell you to stop buying gas for your car and explain how you could only eat five days a week.”
Now that President Obama has turned against sequestration, he is suggesting that spending cuts to federal agencies must result in dire consequences. Firefighters, emergency responders, and teachers will all be cut, he claims. Media outlets have played up these sob stories, copying White House releases in their local news stories and soliciting sad testimonials from people who supposedly would be affected by these cuts.
But the question remains: Why would federal agencies cut their most vital assets instead of trimming around the edges? After all, the sequestration cuts are only 2.4 percent of federal spending.
Take a couple of examples.
President Obama said that “Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country.”
It won’t come as a surprise to most Americans that there is waste and inefficiency at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). In fact, a congressional report “found that TSA is wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.” Another report found that the TSA “has continually grown its ranks despite fewer travelers.”
President Obama said that “Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off.”
First of all, as Heritage researchers have pointed out, “No federal education program operated by the Department of Education directly funds teacher salaries—this is a state and local responsibility.” And there are plenty of programs where inefficiencies are burdening our education system. A congressional report listed a number of duplicative or ineffective education programs that could be cut.
As if these exaggerations weren’t enough, Reason.com reported that the Office of Management and Budget warned of sequestration cuts to an agency that doesn’t even exist. As Reason’s Mike Riggs noted, this raises questions about the accuracy of the Administration’s attempted impact statements.
There is one area where the sequestration cuts will have harsher impacts—national defense. Heritage has warned of the impact on military readiness and America’s ability to defend itself, because defense bears a much larger portion of the cuts than the rest of the budget. The President is now acting concerned about the military after paying it little mind throughout the sequestration debate, using a shipyard as his backdrop for today’s anti-sequestration pep talk.
It makes no sense to hit defense the hardest with these cuts, while sequestration leaves major entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid untouched. Congress should reprogram these spending cuts to target the waste and inefficiencies it has already identified in federal agencies—like those listed above. Heritage’s Patrick Louis Knudsen, the Grover M. Hermann Senior Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs, even helpfully outlined places to find $150 billion in spending cuts that would make a lot more sense.
So no, we don’t have to fire firefighters and teachers and airport screeners. What Congress should be doing is what every American family does—tightening its budget by cutting things that are unnecessary.

OBAMA PILOTS THE RED INK EXPRESS

Sequest-Block-600

by A.F. Branco

OBAMA’S POLICIES ‘NOT SUSTAINABLE’

Obama PoliciesFor two months, reporters and lawmakers have ignored a devastating report from the federal government itself, which warns that the nation’s current fiscal policy will lead to economic collapse.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO)—the personal auditor of President Obama and the federal government—released its assessment of the federal government on January 17, 2013. The report’s findings illuminate just how dire America’s spending problem is and, therefore, how little the current cuts debated by Congress do to fix it.
The findings of the paper include these excerpts (emphasis added):
“The projections in this Report indicate that current policy is not sustainable… Preventing the debt-to-GDP ratio from rising over the next 75 years is estimated to require some combination of spending reductions and revenue increases that amount to 2.7 percent of GDP over the period.”
“It is estimated that running primary surpluses that average 1.0 percent of GDP over the next 75 years would result in the 2087 debt-to-GDP ratio equaling its level in fiscal year 2012, which compares with primary deficits that average 1.7 percent of GDP under current policies.”
“It is noteworthy that preventing the debt-to-GDP ratio from rising over the next 75 years requires that primary surpluses be substantially positive on average. This is true because projected GDP growth is on average smaller than the projected government borrowing rate over the next 75 years.”
“If the primary surplus was precisely zero in every year, then debt would grow at the rate of interest in every year, which would be faster than GDP growth.”
“The differences between the primary surplus boost starting in 2023 and 2033 (3.2 and 4.1 percent of GDP, respectively) and the primary surplus boost starting in 2012 (2.7 percent of GDP) is a measure of the additional burden policy delay would impose on future generations. Future generations are harmed by a policy delay of this sort, because the higher the primary surplus is during their lifetimes the greater the difference is between the taxes they pay and the programmatic spending from which they benefit.”
While President Obama and his media allies boast from their ivory towers that America “doesn’t have a spending problem” but rather a “health-care problem,” they are sweeping reality under the rug and spouting lies to the American people.
This is the reality: when President Obama’s personal auditor says the federal government has a spending problem, it indeed has a spending problem—and one that is growing rapidly.
The most devastating part of the report is the fact that the federal government must run surpluses over the next century to keep the same debt-to-GDP ratio it has today. Meanwhile, Congress and President Obama are throwing a fit over the looming sequester—which will cut a mere 1.2 percent of total deficits (not total debt) over the next ten years—and the Senate has not produced a budget for close to 1,400 days.
A balanced budget will not be enough to cover the rapid growth of interest payments owed on U.S. national debt in the future. The federal government currently pays $223 billion—roughly $3,000 per taxpayer—in annual interest payments. This number is expected to increase to $857 billion by the end of the decade, a 290 percent increase.
If the federal government does not fix the spending problem detailed in this report, it will have to take out more and more loans to pay for the already-outstanding interest payments on the federal government—loans to pay off loans.
Thus, the question remains: what happens when no one will grant Congress more loans?

Please donate any amount you can to help us try to recover legal costs in defending liberty and the right of free speech !