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San Diego City Council Fine Tunes ‘Reform Before Revenue’ Initiative

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The San Diego city council met briefly this morning to sort out final details of a ballot measure that would allow the city to raise the sales tax half a cent, but only AFTER certain conditions had been met.

The San Diego City Council met briefly this morning to sort out final details of a ballot measure that would allow the city to raise the sales tax half a cent, but only after certain conditions had been met.

The conditions include pension reforms and specific steps toward outsourcing some city services.

San Diego’s City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told the council he will not have the "reform before revenue” ballot measure ready for their approval until Wednesday. That’s just two days before a Friday deadline to get it on the November ballot.

Goldsmith said the city auditor would have to certify all the conditions had been met before the State Board of Equalization would agree to implement the tax.

“None of the conditions may be excused for any reason,” Goldsmith said, “including, but not limited to, inability to meet the conditions due to legal restrictions, or other unforeseen circumstances.”

Councilwoman Donna Frye said after the meeting that the list of reforms she drafted would not include attempts to reform legally vested pension benefits.

“What we did is try to craft this in a way that it could be accomplished without litigation,” she said. “So that you didn’t get into the debate about vested versus non-vested benefits.”

The reforms do include requiring elected officials and non-union employees to pay their own pension contributions, rather than the city.

Another condition establishes a program whereby city employees could choose to change from a defined benefit plan to a 401K pension plan. Goldsmith said the IRS may or may not approve this, but as long as the City Council agreed to it, the condition would be met.

San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio also wants the council to take a vote on Wednesday to decide whether or not to overturn the Mayor’s veto of a separate ballot measure: the initiative to build a new city hall.

DeMaio, who is against both a sales tax increase and a new city hall, said he is concerned that some council members might change their minds and decide to vote for a new city hall without taking the issue to the voters.

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