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Erik Bruvold from the nascent San Diego Institute was quite intrigued with my (and Dick Vortmann’s) idea last week that one way to increase the police officers’ take-home pay as much as possible would be to ask for them to agree to raise the police retirement age to 55 instead of 50. I wrote that pension benefits (like a low retirement age) can be replaced with compensation of equal value (like a higher salary).

As part of SDI’s mission to help inform the public debate through high quality public policy analysis, we were intrigued by your ideas recently advanced in the Voice on Police retirement and compensation. We particularly were interested in whether this would be permissible and, in particular, whether such a “grand bargain” would satisfy legal tests regarding the vested pension rights held by public sector employee. We asked SDI’s Corporate Counsel, Theresa McAteer, to prepare a short memorandum on whether the idea advanced in your opinion piece would be doable.

The lawyer wrote this.

It says things like:

But the central question is whether a salary increase would be considered a “comparable new advantage” within the meaning of case law, to justify the raise in retirement age. Case law we reviewed does not directly answer this question. A conservative but reasonable interpretation would require that the “comparable new advantage” also relate to pension rights. It has been said that the offsetting improvement must also “relate generally to the benefit that has been diminished.”

Read it. I’ll try to get through it too. It sounds like residents would have to approve such a move with a vote as would the police union.

Bruvold wanted to make it clear he and the think tank he’s running doesn’t necessarily support the idea.

SCOTT LEWIS

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