California pension funds grow more than 20 percent

Posted July 18, 2011, at 9:59 p.m.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s two largest public pension funds posted their highest investment returns since before the recession, with each reporting returns of more than 20 percent for the fiscal year ended June 30, the investment teams announced Monday.

Despite the windfalls, both funds still face tough questions about whether they will be able to meet their obligations to millions of retirees and their families in the long run

However, the top-drawer returns gave new ammunition to pension supporters against calls by critics for sweeping pension reform at the state Capitol or through the ballot box.

“These healthy returns at a time when the economy is struggling should put an end to the doom-and-gloom scenarios of politicians who want to take a wrecking ball to our state’s pension funds,” said Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of public employee groups.

Public pension costs have drawn political pressure and efforts to drastically revise the system at the Capitol or at the polls. Public employees have been pushing back, arguing that pensions can be fixed with relatively minor changes to curtail abuses and that the recession’s effects would dwindle over time.

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