Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Judge tells San Jose it cannot cut workers' pensions, only their pay

San Jose Mayor Check Reed filed papers on Tuesday to put the public pension measure on the ballot.

flickr/SJRotary

San Jose Mayor Check Reed fought to put the public pension measure on the ballot.

A state judge ruling in a San Jose employee pension rights case has said cities cannot reduce workers' pensions, even if voters approve.

San Jose voters last year passed Measure B, which required city workers to contribute 16 percent more of their own pay toward their pensions or switch to a lower-benefit pension plan.

The city's police union objected and sued. In a tentative decision made public this week, the judge agreed with the police that their vested pension benefits could not be cut.

But the decision didn't entirely favor the workers --  the judge also said the city could cut employees' pay in order to cover the cost of retirement benefits.

The decision may help shape the strategies that San Bernardino and other budget-stressed California cities take as they confront rising retirement costs.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is now pressing for a statewide ballot initiative that, if passed, would allow cities and government agencies to cut the pensions of public workers.

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