SB mayor, others want to change city workers' pension plans

San Bernardino, Calif.

Those cities are: San Jose, Pacific Grove, Anaheim, Santa Ana and San Bernardino.

The city of San Bernardino is still struggling financially more than a year after filing for bankruptcy protection.

San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris says at issue is the city's continued obligation to the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS.

"Given the decisions of the council to lower the retirement age and increase the benefits for both public safety employees as well as our general employees, our obligations to CalPERS have literally exploded," said Morris.

The mayor says it has seen its annual pension contribution go from $1.5 million in 2001 to $14 million in just 13 years.

Morris says as a result, the city has dramatically cut back on services and reduced its workforce. Now he and four other California mayors are seeking a pension reform plan to allow cities more leeway when it comes to public employee benefit plans.

"We still have time in California to save ourselves, I think. That means that the work you've done thus far is vested; we don't touch that. We want the right to renegotiate that contract to modify and make more modest contributions," said Morris.

Union representatives for public employees are calling the initiative unfair and a threat to the retirement accounts for its 1.6 million members who include police officers, firefighters and teachers - calling the issue one for the bargaining table and not the ballot box.

"You can expect labor will throw everything and the kitchen sink at this because this hurts the retirement of millions of Californians," said Steve Maviglio, a political consultant.

But Morris believes voters should decide since it's their services that are at stake. Supporters of the Pension Reform Act are hoping to put it on the 2014 ballot.

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