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Saturday, October 08, 2005 | Editor’s note: Every week leading up to the Nov. 8 election, Voice will pose a reader’s question to the candidates. The answers have not been edited. This week’s question for the mayoral candidates:
“As mayor of San Diego, would you be in favor of rolling back/reducing the pension benefits of already retired city employees?”
I favor paying employee benefits that we can afford. However, we do have an obligation to act legally and morally in our City business. That includes our agreements with our employees. When we uncover, as we now have, overwhelming evidence of illegal behavior in the creation of benefits that cripple the City, we are obligated to declare them illegal, stop paying them, and replace that condition with a benefit system that is both legal and affordable.
Under California law, it is illegal to unilaterally stop paying negotiated, vested benefits. Such an action would expose taxpayers to hundreds of millions of dollars in liability and risk years of expensive litigation.
Although vested benefits can only be rolled back – and should be rolled back – if a court makes that determination, non-vested benefits can and must be decreased to enable the city to make the full actuary-recommended payments to the pension fund for legally approved benefits. Non-vested benefits for retirees include the 13th check and contributions to healthcare.