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Sanders, Faulconer Unveil Pension Reform Plan

— San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and City Councilman Kevin Faulconer are proposing a ballot measure to eliminate pensions for new employees in most city departments. Instead they would contribute to 401K(k)-style retirement accounts and pay in to Social Security.

New public-safety hires would still get pensions, but their payouts would be only 80 percent of their average pay during their highest-paid three years with the city. It is currently 90 percent.

The proposal could save the city $1.6 billion over the next 29 years, Sanders said.

He argued maintaining pensions for public-safety workers is vital to retaining those employees and providing them with death and disability benefits.

“If we can’t hire the best police officers to come out when you call them or we can’t hire the best firefighters or lifeguards because we’re not competitive in that market, then we’re sending people that are not qualified to your door whether it’s burning or whether you need a police officer and that’s simply not fair to San Diegans.”

But City Councilman Carl DeMaio proposed his own package of reforms in January and said the proposal by Sanders and Faulconer plan doesn’t go far enough.

“The biggest liability continues to be existing employees. There are legal ways to reform those benefits, the most powerful measure is to cap individual pensionable pay.”

Under DeMaio’s proposal, pensions would be eliminated for all new city workers and current employees would be subject to a five-year pay freeze.

Sanders and DeMaio said the two camps tried to draft a compromise ballot initiative, but that those negotiations fell apart. Each laid blame for that failure on the other.

The city-workers' union also criticized the proposal. Its president, Joan Raymond said public-safety workers’ pensions are already costing the city more than those for other workers. She says maintaining them only means the city’s pension liability will keep growing.

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