All state public pension funds lost money in 2009 as their stock and property investments tanked, a new Census Bureau report says, but California's systems accounted for a huge share of the losses.
The state has three major pension systems - one covering state and many local workers, one for teachers and one for University of California employees - and collectively assets dropped from $476.2 billion during the 2007-08 fiscal year to $340.2 billion a year later.
That $136 billion loss of value represented 21.2 percent of all state pension fund value declines during the year, even though the state has about 12 percent of the nation's population and had less than 18 percent of the all state pension fund assets.
The new data add fuel to the already burning controversy over the long-term viability of public pensions in California, both state and local.
Republicans have demanded pension reforms as part of any state budget deal, while Democrats and their allies in public worker unions have resisted wholesale changes, contending that recent investment gains are restoring pension fund health. But recent polls also indicate that were major pension changes placed on the ballot, voters would approve them handily.
The Census Bureau's statistical report reveals that nationwide, state pension fund assets declined from $2.7 trillion in 2008 to $2 trillion in 2009. It includes a state-by-state breakdown of income, outgo, investment gains and losses and net value.
During 2009, California's funds distributed $23.6 billion to pensioners and those withdrawing from the systems. They took in $6.4 billion from employee payroll deductions and $10.7 billion from government employers while losing $105.2 billion on investments.