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L.A. pension plan would hike retirement age, cut pension benefits

September 18, 2012 |  1:15 pm

Los Angeles' City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, right, listens to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during a presentation in 2010. Credit: Don Bartletti  / Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles City Council has zeroed in on a plan for cutting the pension benefits of newly hired civilian employees, setting the stage for a battle with a half dozen unions.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget official at City Hall, released a proposal Tuesday recommending the normal retirement age be increased from 55 to 65 and that maximum pensions be scaled back from 2.16% of a worker's salary, multiplied by the number of years worked, to 2%.

Santana said the changes would save up to $70 million within five years and as much as $309 million over a decade. After 30 years, the changes would save $3.9 billion to $4.9 billion, according to his report.

The proposal was quickly denounced by Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721, who called it “unsound and unlawful” –- and a “frontal attack on all city workers.” Schoonover said the council cannot unilaterally impose the changes contained in the proposal.

“If the city refuses to negotiate about the proposed changes to city worker pensions, we’ll take whatever action necessary to enforce our rights, even if it means going to court,” he said.

Council President Herb Wesson is planning a vote on the proposal next week, possibly as soon as Tuesday. Santana said that the city's labor negotiations committee -- made up of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and four council members -- had instructed him to send the plan to the council.

Councilman Ed Reyes, who serves on the committee, said he had not finished reviewing the proposal but argued that the city’s ongoing budget woes make pension reform “a direction we need to take.”

“The numbers that are there -– it’s pretty dire,” he said of the city's budget crisis.

The proposal was released five months after Villaraigosa said he wanted to increase the retirement age for civilian workers to 67. Voters approved a measure last year trimming the retirement benefits given to newly hired police officers and firefighters. But the retirement ages for those two groups of workers would remain untouched under the proposal released Tuesday.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall


Photo: Los Angeles City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, right, listens to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during a presentation in 2010. Credit: Don Bartletti  / Los Angeles Times