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L.A. mayor, city controller back pension reform plan for police, firefighters [Updated]

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Controller Wendy Greuel have thrown their weight behind a plan to scale back pensions for newly hired police officers and firefighters.

The proposal is part of a larger effort to prevent retirement costs from eating away at taxpayer-funded services.

Villaraigosa and Greuel called a 10 a.m. news conference Monday to announce their support for City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana's proposed pension reform ballot measure. It would require newly hired sworn public safety employees to contribute more toward their pensions while receiving less generous benefits than those currently allowed.

[Updated at 11:30 a.m.: At the City Hall news conference, Villaraigosa said the “landmark” pension reform proposal would save the city $173 million for every 1,000 new police officers and firefighters hired.

“This plan not only reduces the taxpayers’ obligation to fund the pension system, it also promotes a more stable and invested public safety force,” Villaraigosa said. “I think, in the end, this is a sustainable proposal for pension reform that generates savings.”

The mayor expressed confidence that the City Council, voters and unions would accept the plan, which would also end free healthcare for retirees and require new hires to pay 2% of their salaries into the pension fund for healthcare.

“The era of free healthcare is over,” Villaraigosa said.]

The Times reported Saturday that Santana's plan would require new police and firefighters to contribute 11% toward their pensions, not the 9% currently required. It would also pare back the size of pensions awarded to those employees.

Police officers and firefighters who retire after 20 years currently are eligible to receive an annual pension that is equal to 50% of their yearly salary.

Santana's proposal would lower that amount to 40% for new hires. Sworn employees who retire after 25 years are currently eligible for a yearly pension that is equal to 65% of their salary. That figure would drop to 55%, according to the plan.

"We're trying to discourage people from retiring earlier," Santana said.

The proposal comes at a time when pension costs are growing fast at City Hall. By 2015, those costs are expected to consume one-third of the city's general fund budget -- which pays for such basic services as public safety and parks -- unless costs are brought under control.

Santana's plan is designed to save $173 million over 30 years for every 1,000 new police officers and firefighters hired. Even in a recession, the city is hiring roughly 300 new offers each year, Santana said last week.

The City Council is scheduled to meet Friday to review the ballot proposal, which is planned for the March 8 municipal election. Voters agreed to give more generous pension benefits to sworn employees in 2001, approving a ballot measure backed by then-Mayor Richard Riordan.

The plan allowed firefighters and police officers to earn up to 90% of their salaries upon retirement -- if they had served 33 years. That will not change, even if voters agree to scale back public safety pensions.

Newly hired police and firefighters would still receive 90% of their salaries after 33 years of service, according to Santana's report.

-- David Zahniser and Patrick J. McDonnell at City Hall

Comments () | Archives (15)

I sure hope that they are looking at the civilian employees too! Why do the retirees getting a raise in their pension benefits when their working counterparts do? That doesn't seem right to pay for someone who is not working any longer.

How sad, LAPD recruit's salary was cut from $54,000 per year to $45,000 to help with the mess of the budget crisis the politicians made. Now, instead of going after other cities employee pensions they want to start with police and fire. The public safety 1st responders who save lives each and every day. Why not go after the politicians and Mayor's pension, the DWP etc.

let's scale back little tony's salary...he does nothing!

"...pension reform proposal would save the city $173 million for every 1,000 new police officers and firefighters hired." This should give readers some understanding of just how generous current pensions are. $173 million per 1,000 new hires is $173,000 per hire. So just this reform saves $173,000 per hire. This reform is not even a large chunk of the current pensions. So you start getting an idea of how much the pensions, even after so-called "reform" cost us the taxpayers.

Great plan.....its about time

Is that 11% for regular pension plus 2% for free healthcare, which equals to 13% ? or is it 11% (9+2) for the overall total? which one is it? If its 13%, then that's a lot more than other agencies. So LA you get what you pay for as far as good job candidates.

Don't you just love it.

Keep the pension as is and throw the new workers under the bus. Didn't they just give a bunch of workers early retierment? The game stopper here is letting the Mayor and city controller propose this plan. WE have the pupet mayor for the union and then a city controller that has no expierance.

When are the politicians going to stop lying to us. I think any real analysis will reveal that show that even that is not actuarially sound. Any assumption of growth in current govt. revenue is an illusion. All fixed benefit plans are a lie unless you put the money in that someone will draw out!!

We need a across the board pension reform for all public workers! It needs to be done or the city needs to file for bankruptcy already.

Here is the truth:

The savings quoted in the article per 1,000 new hires is realized over 30 years and not immediately.

LAPD is not part of PERS, which is what is talked about most when politicians and others talk about pension problems. LAPD has its own pension with LAFD.

The LAPD/LAFD pension is almost fully funded high 90 percentile while PERS is much lower. Why is this? LAPD/LAFD used more conservative investments and kept politicians out of the cookie jar.

LAPD has paid 8-9% of their salaries into the pension for decades. Most politicans are calling for PERS employess to contribute 9% starting now when they have not contributed anything of their own salary towards their pensions in the past.

Police officers and firefighters die younger than other folks. When they die, their surviving spouce gets 60% of whatever pension they received when they left service. So if they left with 90% the survivor gets 60% of that.

The LA model is far better already than the PERS model that is so under funded and problematic.

The City doesn't tell the reader and the L.A. Times doesnt report that the City did not make their required pension fund deposits during good economic times when the funds were getting good investment returns.

Instead, these are very tough economic times and everyone is angry and now they need to direct their anger at someone and public employees are the scape goats.

Good luck recruiting police and fire employees for those very dangerous and thankless jobs.

'They gave away the farm and now are willing to close the barn door after they and the other public employees have theirs written into law. The Mayor and the Controller are not just thieves, but evil liars as well.

Its outrageous that we will still have to pay full freight to the old and current employees. What an absolute joke!

We ought to pay new and current LAPD the full package: aside from their ticket patrols, they are the only people that do anything useful in the city. Cut the rest of the social workers, clerks and so on back. We are going to lose experienced LAPD officers to other cities and if anyone deserves a good pension, its the LAPD.

-- A pension plan reform movement for L.A. Firefighters and Police Officers is a good thing. I have long wanted L.A. citizens to realize how successful police and fire types have been in pulling the wool over the eyes of citizens. Police and firefighters have gutted City coffers for years. The majority of the budget goes towards payroll for these Ph.D. Ripoff Artists and their pensions. Hopefully this will be the start of numerous other cities taking a look at their payroll and pension plans for police and firefighters.

In regard to Villaraigosa’s words of "The days of unsustainable pensions are over," LAX is firing Travelers Aid at the airport to make jobs for surplus senior city employees so their jumbo pensions can get bigger.

It's about time. And Robert, to your quote about them 'saving lives' I say HA! It's true, some do, but why do I see the vast majority of firefighters sitting around the station most of the time. And it seems like every cop is a FAT SOB that just likes to give me speeding tickets and parking tickets. (Yes before you say it I realize that cops don't hand out parking tickets, meter maids do). But the point is, if you're a public protector, you should be in shape, muscular, not a lazy fat ass who just rakes in cash for the city.

Some cops risk their lives, and I appreciate them. But they don't ALL deserve higher salaries just because they are a cop. Those that get into a firefight or a hazardous situation should get a bonus, but don't just give every cop a ton of money.

That being said, I was recently traveling down a city road. I look down for a second, look up and see a motorcycle cop in the middle of the road. He waves me off to the side. Then I see him nab 3 more behind me. He gives me a ticket for speeding. Was I speeding? Yes, but this prick was just raking in money for the city, and his quota and wasn't even getting on his motorcycle. He had two cop buddies just standing there filling out the paperwork for each ticket. You think THAT deserves 54K a year? I don't think so. I only wish they would have scaled back existing pensions.


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