California Teachers Get Their Due in Federal Budget
First Installment of School Lands Sale Authorized to Pension Fund
SACRAMENTO – - California educators saw their retirement fund grow $36 million stronger when President Bill Clinton signed the final omnibus appropriations legislation Wednesday. A provision added at the last minute appropriates the funds to pay the first installment of the $324 million compensation due under a 1996 settlement with the Administration.
The funds compensate California and its teachers for yielding claim to oil-rich lands granted to the state when it entered the Union in 1853.
“Finally, we have closure to a decades-old issue that will provide additional pension security for California’s teachers. It took round-the-clock efforts by our Congressional champions to pull off this rare legislative feat,” said James D. Mosman, Chief Executive Officer of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. “Our half-million active and retired educators owe a great debt of gratitude to Rep. Bill Thomas, who spearheaded the legislative effort in Congress to obtain this funding, and to Rep. Vic Fazio for his longtime active support on the Elk Hills issue. We also appreciate the Administration’s strong support in ensuring our teachers received the compensation due them.”
The payments to the teachers’ retirement fund had been stalled due to legislation passed after the settlement was made. The later law would have the payments treated as a new spending program that would threaten to breach the stringent budget caps. It took the personal intercession of Administration and Congressional members at the highest level, led by Rep. Thomas (R-Bakersfield) and Rep. Fazio (D-West Sacramento) to break the logjam. They were able to get the payment provision into the final appropriations legislation even though it had not been part of either the House or Senate versions.
Others involved in keeping this matter before the Administration included the entire California Congressional delegation, all of whom signed a letter of support; Gov. Pete Wilson, Attorney General Dan Lungren and state Senator John Burton (D-San Francisco).
The land in question is in the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve located 28 miles west of Bakersfield. It had been designated as “school lands” to provide revenues for public schools, although the state received no funds due to a dispute with the federal government dating back almost to 1900. Early in this century, the land was set aside as a strategic fuel reserve for the Navy. However, the land is no longer being held as a reserve and has been in commercial oil and natural gas production since 1976.
CONTACTS: Sherry Reser (916) 229-3258 or Jennifer DuCray-Morrill (916) 229-3714
California Teachers Get Their Due in Federal Budget Posted: October 29, 1998