OC Register: "Experts: California not Wisconsin, but benefits unsustainable"


Unlike Wisconsin, California stands virtually no chance of stripping public school teachers and other unionized employees of their collective contract-negotiating rights. But like Wisconsin, the economic downturn has put increasing pressure on state workers to accept deep concessions in their health and retirement benefits, experts say.

California is in the middle of a perfect storm – health insurance costs are rising, retirees are living longer, and the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit is looming – and this means cash-strapped school districts will be increasingly insisting their employees bear more of the cost of their benefits, observers predict.

School districts in California last year picked up an average of 86 percent of the costs of their teachers' benefits, according to 2009-10 data from the state Department of Education. In Orange County, the ratio was even higher – taxpayers paid 93 percent of the total cost.

Striking teachers in the La Habra City School District walk a picket line in December 2010. The five-day strike -- the second teacher strike in Orange County in less than a year -- was the result of pay cuts imposed by a school district that insisted it was financially in the red, in part because of the soaring costs of employee health insurance. BRUCE CHAMBERS, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER>>FULL STORY<<

Ashley TemmComment