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Report Cites Rising Pension Costs Amid Judge’s Prop B Rejection

Chris Cate, the vice president of the San Diego Taxpayers Association, and Michael Zucchet, the general manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, talk to KPBS about pension reform.

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Public sector workers' pensions are once again the focus of scrutiny by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Their new survey finds that most cities in San Diego County will see an increase in pension payments in the coming fiscal year.

The cities studied are all part of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CALPERS, a pension system that recently underwent reform by legislation in Sacramento.

Chris Cate, the vice president of the San Diego Taxpayers Association, told KPBS that cities that have implemented pension reform are beginning to see decreases in pension costs. He said of the 17 cities in the county that are enrolled in the CALPERS pension system, 14 will see an increase in pension costs on July 1, 2014.

"We noted that cities that have implemented reforms over the past few years are continuing to see declines in pension costs, most notably Solana Beach," he said. "They were the first city of the CALPERS cities in the county to move to a second-tier lower cost pension benefit formula for employees, as well as have employees contribute their full requirement of pension costs. And over the last two years, they've seen declines in pension cost, and this year a 9 percent reduction."

Notably absent in the SDCTA's report is the city of San Diego, whose own pension reform, Proposition B, was recently rejected by an administrative judge.

Michael Zucchet, the general manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, said Proposition B wasn't pension reform.

"The real pension reform was what's happened at the bargaining table in San Diego over the last seven plus years," he said. "A lot of these reforms, including the ones Chris is talking about, were done in the city of San Diego years ago."

Zucchet said Proposition B wasn't just legally flawed, it was "morally flawed."

"Because we had done all this good work at the bargaining table, yet the politicians wanted to play politics with pensions and go to the voters and put up this proposition that doesn't save real money and oh by the way is illegal," he said.

Cate said it does appear Proposition B will be tied up in courts for years to come.

"We're going to be standing behind the city attorney as we move forward," he said.

The 66 percent of voters who approved Proposition B "deserve to have pension reform implemented to the fullest extent," he said.

Cate said the SDCTA applauds Mayor Bob Filner for moving forward on a five-year pensionable pay freeze, but that Proposition B has other elements that must be implemented as well.

The costs of fighting for Proposition B are "something we'll have to deal with," Cate said. He said the ultimate savings to come from the reform measure make those legal costs worth it.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.


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