The bills for enhanced pension benefits in Costa Mesa, San Bernardino and other cities and agencies are coming due. Drastic cuts and legal battles are just some of the consequences.

Scores of California government agencies continued to sweeten employee pension plans even after the state’s economy began collapsing into recession in 2008, a decision that is now haunting them as they struggle with deficits and deep budget cuts.

A state oversight panel has identified about 180 local governments that increased pension benefits at a time when the state’s unemployment rate was rising, housing prices were falling and the nation’s banking system was in crisis. The enhancements covered thousands of public employees, adding tens of millions of dollars of new debt to local governments, analysts say.

Cities are now paying the price.

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