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CalPERS reports higher investment gains on funds

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POSTED January 14, 2014 9:04 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — California's biggest public pension system reported its biggest annual investment gains in a decade, thanks to strong performances in its stock, private equity and real estate portfolios.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System announced Monday that its overall portfolio grew by 16.2 percent last year.

The performance more than doubled CalPERS' official forecast of 7.5 percent and showed an improvement over the 13.3 percent the pension fund earned in 2012, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The $282 billion fund was mostly boosted by a 25 percent increase in stock prices.

The results were the best calendar-year returns for the fund since 2003, when it earned 23.3 percent.

Despite the gains, CalPERS is still in a financial hole, largely the result of huge losses incurred during the 2008 market crash. While it has plenty of cash to pay its bills for the foreseeable future, the pension fund is facing a long-term shortfall of over $100 billion, according to the newspaper.

To funnel more money into the system, the governing board of the fund that provides benefits to about 1.7 million state and local government workers will consider an increase in contribution rates next month.

But any rate hikes would be put off until the fiscal year 2016-17, in order to lessen the strain they would put on government budgets.

"Concern has been raised that the contribution increases may be too much for employers to bear," CalPERS staff members said in a report to the board last month.

Several municipalities say they are being stretched thin by their CalPERS bills. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is trying to get an initiative on the November ballot that would give state and local governments the authority to reduce pension costs.

But the latest positive investment returns from CalPERS could be a blow to the argument, floated by Reed and others, that the public pension system in California is out of control, the Bee said. Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for the union-backed Coalition for Retirement Security, said on Twitter that the 16.2 percent gain represents "another nail in the coffin" for Reed's initiative.

Reform advocate Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, acknowledged that CalPERS' performance doesn't help her cause.

"It might make it difficult to convince voters we have a problem," she told the Bee.

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