Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Villaraigosa says Riordan plan for city worker pensions "may cost more"

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Jerod Harris/Getty Images for BGR

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has "concerns" about the city employee pension put forward by former mayor Richard Riordan.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a statement Wednesday expressing reservations about a pension reform plan from one of his predecessors, former Mayor Richard Riordan.

"I have concerns that Mayor Riordan's pension plan may cost more money than the current system and hinder our efforts to recruit the best for our police department."

Under Riordan's plan, new city workers would be placed in private 401(k)-style pension plans.  Villaraigosa worries aspiring police officers would be less interested in working at the L.A.P.D. and instead go to cities that continue to offer defined pension packages.

Riordan's plan - staunchly oppposed by city labor unions - would also require current city workers to contribute more of their salaries to the pension fund, and would freeze city contributions during bad economic times.  The former Republican mayor argues the city faces bankruptcy if voters fail to approve his plan.  He hopes to collect enough signatures by Dec. 7 to place it on the May ballot.

Villaraigosa said the city would conduct an actuarial study on the costs of Riordan's plan if it qualified for the ballot.  Riordan has conceded he failed to do one himself before making the proposal, but has commissioned one now.

In his statement, Villaraigosa said his administration already has taken steps to address the financially troubled pension system. The city has reduced the general fund workforce by 5,000 positions, increased employee contributions to retiree health care and enacted a pension reform plan which raises the retirement age for future civilian employees from 55 to 65.

"As Los Angeles continues to grapple with the biggest economic downturn since the 1930s, we are taking significant steps to create jobs and put our fiscal house in order," Villaraigosa said. "Believing that we cannot just cut our way out of our deficit, we have lowered taxes on new businesses, cut red tape, and made significant investments in our port, airport, and mass transit system."

 The mayor said he is working with the City Council on additional reforms to make the city more efficient, accountable and competitive.  "Our new package of reforms will further reduce the size of our workforce, embrace new public-private partnerships, and streamline city services."

Earlier, Villaraigosa said he would support a half0cent sales tax increase approved by the City Council only if it approved some of his reform proposals.

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