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S.D. Voters May Have More Choices On Pension Reform

Aired 1/31/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego voters will get a chance to vote on pension reform in the June election. But voters may have more than one reform option to choose from.

— The San Diego City Council has voted 7-1 to place the Comprehensive Pension Reform initiative on the June 5 ballot. Councilwoman Marti Emerald voted against placing the measure on the ballot. She said she supports voters' right to decide on pension reform but wanted that vote to come in the November general election instead. Emerald believes that would save the city money. Voter turnout also tends to be higher during general elections.

The pension reform initiative would freeze base pay for current city employees for five years and would eliminate pensions for most new hires, excluding police officers. Instead workers would enroll in a 401(k)- style retirement plan. Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio has championed the measure. He said the initiative is the result of voters demanding change.

"San Diego citizens have a constitutional right... to petition their government for redress," he said. "The City Charter provides for that right and the citizens have chosen to exercise that right by collecting an historic number of signatures."

But there may be another option for voters to consider. At the council meeting Democratic Councilmember David Alvarez announced he wants voters to have a choice regarding pension reform plans. And he’s proposing an alternative that would not eliminate pensions.

"Cap and freeze would combine a five-year freeze on pensionable pay with a cap on pensions to prohibit anyone from taking home a six-figure pension," he said.

Alvarez’s office said the councilman is currently working on the plan, and expects to have it done in time to make the ballot. The city council would have to vote to put the measure on the ballot. The measure must be turned into election officials by March 9.

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