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L.A. Now Live: Riordan drops pension reform plan amid union fight

November 27, 2012 |  7:45 am

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan abandoned his campaign to take a pension overhaul plan to voters next year as City Hall unions fought back, making it difficult to gather the required signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Times City Hall reporter Kate Linthicum will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the latest developments and how Riordan's decision is being viewed by city leaders. 

Riordan's proposal, targeted for the May ballot, would have replaced guaranteed retirement payments with 401(k)-style investment accounts for new employees. It also would have scaled back benefits for existing workers. 

He vowed Monday to keep pushing for major changes in city pension programs and raising the possibility of a similar ballot measure in a future election.

"I'm going to be heard until this city government does something to avoid bankruptcy," he said. "I cannot stand seeing the city of L.A. ruined.... This city is going to be in rubble." 

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council members have pursued a series of changes in recent years to control rising retirement costs. Last year, they persuaded voters to trim pension benefits for newly hired police officers. And last month, facing the threat of Riordan's ballot measure, council members voted to roll back benefits for new civilian employees.

Those changes followed warnings from budget officials that pension costs were on track to consume 26% of the city's general fund budget by 2016, up from 19% this year. Revised numbers have not been released since the council's recent pension changes. But Assistant City Administrative Officer Ray Ciranna predicted that the savings from recent pension changes would be "minimal" over the next two years, with bigger cost reductions in future years.

The union depicted backers of the measure as a "billionaire boys' club" and chided Riordan for failing to obtain an actuarial study that would determine the financial effects of his initiative. The union said Riordan's plan would cost the city money because new hires would no longer be financially supporting existing pension systems.