City leaders propose pension reforms for the June ballot

Next year we will find out how much pension reform San Diego taxpayers want. There will be competing reform measures on the June ballot, and each one is being pushed by a Councilmember who wants to be Mayor. KUSI's Steve Bosh reports on the details of these ballot measures.

These competing measures would change the existing system but one goes much further than the other, and that difference will likely define the issue in the campaign.

That issue will be public safety. The mayor has teamed up with wanna-be mayor Kevin Faulconer to move city employees into a 401 (k) type pension plan to reduce persistent budget deficits. But, in this ballot measure, not “all” city employees and public safety members would keep the same pension plan they have now.

“I believe it would destroy our ability to hire and retain police recruits and firefighters. Our city competes with other public agencies locally and throughout the state for qualified and trained public safety personnel,” said Mayor Sanders.

Councilmember Carl DeMaio says the mayor's plan does nothing to end the abuses in the pension system, and employees would still not pay their fair share into the system. DeMaio believes, “that's where our liability lies. The biggest liability is for existing employees. It also unfortunately exempts half of the entire liability for new hires.”

And new hires in public safety would continue to receive guaranteed pensions although capped at 80-percent, instead of the current 90-percent of their highest salary. But DeMaio says this is not enforceable.

“We already have a 90-percent cap but you see people in the pension system are earning far in excess of their highest salary,” said DeMaio.

There are retired battalion chiefs drawing over 200-thousand dollars a year in retirement checks, and dozens of other employees drawing over 150-thousand.

DeMaio says this runaway pension nightmare must end now and that's why he is going to put a real pension reform on the ballot and let voters decide.

The mayor's plan would also cap the city's overall payroll for 5-years, and it would take away city employees' right to vote down any changes in benefits that were agreed to at the bargaining table.

There was an attempt to merge these two into a single ballot measure but negotiations broke down with both sides blaming the other. And with both Faulconer and DeMaio looking to run for mayor next year, unity was hard to come by.

Categories: KUSI