San Francisco Mayor Unveils Pension Reform Ballot Measure

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and several city officials gathered at City Hall Tuesday to announce a measure for the November ballot that proposes widespread reform to city workers’ pensions and health benefits.

The proposed charter amendment—the result of months of negotiations between city officials and labor and business leaders—would cap pension benefits and raise retirement ages for city workers, and require them to contribute more to their retirement and health plans.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

Lee said the proposal would save the city between $800 million and $1 billion over the next decade. San Francisco’s pension costs are set to increase by more than $125 million in the next fiscal year, and by more than $100 million in each of the next three years, according to the mayor’s office.

Lee said “we needed to fix our financial house in the city,” and called the measure “a consensus, comprehensive plan that we believe will fix this problem for the long-term.”

Among the details of the proposal are the raising of the retirement age from 62 to 65 for most city employees, and from 55 to 58 for police and firefighters.

The plan would create additional cost sharing of up to 6 percent for future and current city employees, and all elected officials would be required to begin paying into their retirement plans.

Lee stressed that the proposal was developed with the input of labor unions and the business community.

“We’re proud to say that in working on this, we were making sure we talked to everybody and allowed every voice to be heard,” he said.

The measure was to be introduced at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, and was to be discussed by the rules committee next week before being considered by the full board, which could vote to place it on the November ballot.

The proposal appears to have the support of a majority of the 11 supervisors, nine of which were at Tuesday morning’s news conference.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who has been one of the board’s strongest backers of pension reform, said, “This is real reform … that every San Franciscan can be proud to support come November.”

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, however, is calling for more extensive reform and has proposed a separate pension reform measure. He said Tuesday that he has gathered about half of the roughly 50,000 signatures needed to get it on the November ballot.

Adachi had placed a pension reform measure, Proposition B, on last November’s ballot but it was rejected by the city’s voters.

Lee said he met with Adachi on Monday to discuss the dueling proposals, and said, “I think the consensus approach is the right way to go.”

Adachi said Tuesday afternoon, “I applaud the mayor’s effort to deal seriously with the pension crisis, and his proposal is a very good first step, but the question is whether it goes far enough.”

He said his proposal would save the city more money in the coming years than the mayor’s plan.

“It’s not in anyone’s interest to put an initiative before the voters that’s not going to fix the problem,” Adachi said.

“I’ve said from the very beginning, if the mayor is able to come up with a consensus plan that solved the problem, I’d drop my measure, and I stand by that,” he said.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier on Ed Lee’s Pension Reform Plan:

“(The unions are) going to take a big hit,” pointed out KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier.  But, they took a look at the polling and it shows that if they don’t come up with some kind of deal to keep things moving somebody else like Public Defender Jeff Adachi or some group’s going to go to the ballot with something even more draconian.”

“And, chances are it’ll pass,” said Matier. “So it’s not like the people have a lot of choices moving forward on this movement.”

Listen to KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier’s complete interview here:

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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