Pension reform petition signatures turned in


City News Service

Supporters of an initiative to reform San Diego’s debt-ridden pension system submitted petitions containing more than 145,000 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office Friday, well over the required number.

Backers of the Comprehensive Pension Reform initiative, who need nearly 95,000 valid signatures to get the issue on the ballot, called their submitted total a record for the city.

Supporters say the proposal is projected to save $1.2 billion through 2040 by giving new employees, other than police officers, 401(k) plans instead of placing them in the pension system, and by placing a five-year freeze on pay for current workers that will later be used to calculate their pension payouts.

City staff would still receive raises and bonuses during the freeze period — but that extra money would not be used in the retirement calculations.

“This is a great day for San Diego,’’ Mayor Jerry Sanders said. We have now put in the public’s hands the ability to end San Diego’s pension problems once and for all.’’

Opponents believe the proposal lessens the safety net for city employees who are not enrolled in Social Security. They said it would also make it difficult to recruit top talent for new city jobs.

“City attorneys would make less money than the manager of a Jack-in-the-Box,’’ said Lorena Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer and CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. What kind of city attorneys would we have in San Diego?’’

The labor council is set to kick off a countywide education campaign, called Just Say No,’’ aimed at informing voters about the measure.

City clerks need to verify the 145,000 signatures before the Comprehensive Pension Reform Initiative can be placed on the June 2012 ballot.