Adachi pitches plan B for wrangling rising pensions

February 23, 2011 7:21:48 PM PST
Everyone agrees something needs to be done about the skyrocketing costs of pensions, but the question facing cities around the state is how to do it. In San Francisco there are competing ideas, including one from the man who took the issue to voters last year. He's back, with Plan B.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi calls his latest proposal "Son of B." It's the follow up to Prop B, his pension reform measure that was defeated by the voters in November. On Wednesday, Adachi met with the mayor and others to talk about Son of B which he thinks voters will embrace.

"I'm convinced this time we'll come out on top because everything we said was going to happen, has happened. The pension costs are going up, the city is facing record deficits, and people are seeing services cut," said Adachi.

According to the controller's office, in the next fiscal year that begins in July, the city will contribute $422 million to employee pensions. That's up $65 million from this year.

Under Adachi's plan, the city won't pay more than half an employee's total pension contribution and it caps the amount at $85,000 a year.

Last year, city workers mounted an all out campaign against Prop B and now their unions -- along with a coalition of business and City Hall representatives -- have come up with their own reforms to follow through on a promise made to the voters last fall.

"I think they are going to realize there's a different model out there with labor. That we're going to get ahead of the problem to fix it before it becomes a real crisis for San Francisco. And that's something not happening anywhere else in the nation," said Tom O'Connor, the San Francisco Firefighters union president.

One of their proposals would reduce from 95 percent to 75 percent the amount of salary eligible for pensions for public safety employees. Another would cap the salary amount used to determine pensions.

Mayor Ed Lee says everything should be on the table.

"I won't use the word crisis right now, but I certainly will say it can become one if we don't take care of it," said Lee.

And there's a chance consensus could be reached between Adachi and the unions on how to prevent a pension tsunami.


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