Pension Reform Bid Goes to Ballot

Campaign spending in the millions of dollars is expected

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Boxes of signatures in support of pension reform stacked at the San Diego City Clerk's office on Sept. 30.

    A controversial, proposed overhaul of San Diego's municipal retirement system was forwarded to the June 5 primary election ballot Monday by the City Council.

    Campaign spending in the millions of dollars is expected.

    Backers of the Comprehensive Pension Reform Initiative already have spent over a million dollars to qualify it by way of 116,000 petition signatures.

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    The city's labor unions have filed for a state Public Employees Relations Board injunction to stop it from going forward.

    Councilman Carl DeMaio, one of the initiative's co-authors, had this response during Council discussions: "The notion that labor unions would demand that they have veto power on the citizens' initiative process is patently laughable and, I would argue, offensive."

    The measure would replace current pension benefits with "defined contribution", or 401(k)-style retirement plans, for all future city hires except police officers.

    It also seeks a five-year cap on "pensionable pay" for all current as well as new employees.

    Backers say it would save between a billion and five billion dollars in retiree costs over the next three decades.

    Critics say it violates state collective bargaining laws, and that the claims about cost savings will be debunked by a fiscal analysis to be performed by the city auditor and independent budget analyst.

    "I can promise you that fiscal analysis is not going to show you billions in savings; it's not even going to show a billion in savings," said Michael Zucchet, general manager of the city's 4,000-member Municipal Employees Assn., in an interview Monday.

    "It's going to show substantially less in savings over the long term, and over the short term it's going to show pain for the city's budget.  Which seems crazy, given where we are today."

    The measure also is being challenged in court, by attorney and San Diego mayoral candidate Hud Collins.

    He claims it's an improper revision -- not a legal amendment -- to the City Charter.

    A Superior Court hearing is set for Feb. 17th.

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