San Jose votes to put pension reform before voters

December 6, 2011 7:58:20 PM PST
San Jose's City Council made a decision late Tuesday afternoon on what it plans to do about pension reform. It's been a controversial issue that prompted more protests this week.

The council voted 6-5 to put pension reform before the San Jose voters in June. Hundreds of city workers rallied in front of City Hall Tuesday afternoon, prior to the council meeting and hours of debate.

Just last week, projected retirement costs were revised downward and that would drop the estimated budget deficit for next year from $80 million to $25 million. Still, the mayor argued that pension costs are out of control and need long term reform. The unions argue a ballot measure is illegal.

"What the ballot initiative does is it looks to challenge laws as they exist today, which is probably going to mean years of litigation before anything gets settled, if anything at all gets settled," said Robert Sapien from the San Jose Firefighters union president.

"We fundamentally have to get control over these skyrocketing costs because we're draining money from services and pouring it into retirement benefits," said Mayor Chuck Reed.

The 6-5 vote approves the language to put the matter before voters in June. The city says it is immediately inviting the 11 bargaining units back into mediation to see if they can come to some sort of agreement. And those discussions could change the actual ballot language, which doesn't have to be turned into the register of voters until early March.

The council, by the way, did vote unanimously earlier in the session not to declare a fiscal state emergency, in part because of those revised retirement costs.


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