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Los Angeles takes own path on pension reforms

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is hoping to implement new pension reforms through a city ordinance. If that fails, he says he is prepared to put the question before voters.

While voters in San Jose and San Diego signed off on pension reforms at the ballot box, the city of Los Angeles is hoping to revamp pension benefits for future employees by going through the legislative process. 

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced pension reforms two months ago when he introduced the budget for fiscal year 2012-13. Under the mayor’s plan the retirement age for new civilian employees would increase to 67. Right now, employees can retire with full benefits at 55. Benefits would be capped at 75 percent of an employee’s final compensation, and cost of living adjustments would be reduced. 

The city administrative officer has been instructed to report back to the Executive Employee Relations Committee. From there, the pension plan would go to the Los Angeles City Council for approval.

Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Florida yesterday, the mayor told Reuters, “we're proposing it to the city council. If they don't pass it, we're going to put it on the ballot.”

In San Diego last week, voters agreed to move new employees into a 401(k)-style retirement fund and limit how pension benefits are calculated. Up in San Jose, Measure B requires employees to contribute significantly more money toward their retirement or settle for a plan with fewer benefits.

In Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times, the group L.A. Neighbors United took out a full-page advertisement advocating for plans that mirror San Jose and San Diego. 

“What do they know in San Jose and San Diego that we don’t know in Los Angeles? Nothing. We all have to do our part. It’s time for L.A. to lead again,” according to the ad.

Cary Brazeman, a candidate for city controller, founded the group. Brazeman told KPCC he has not yet talked to city council members or business chambers about pension reform.  

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