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The real tension about pensions 

The "Pension tension" (Oct. 12) article leaves the incorrect impression that pension formula changes at the state level involuntarily caused local governments to increase pension benefits.

SB 400 merely established a new and higher pension formula, with no requirement that any local government adopt that formula or make enhancements retroactive. In addition, state law required local governments to determine the costs of pension increases and publish those costs two weeks before any vote.

Every local government implementing pension increases did so voluntarily. In fact, in at least one instance—San Diego County—pension increases were imposed on employees. In 2001, the county declared an impasse in bargaining with San Diego County deputy district attorneys and public defenders, who wanted real wage increase instead of pension formula increases. After voting to impose the pension changes, Supervisor Bill Horn explained the county wanted to implement a new retirement program. "The attorneys ... stonewalled us over negotiations. ... We can't really hold up the changes in the retirement system for the rest. We're going to continue to implement the retirement system. We think it's only fair."

Local government officials were acting on behalf of citizens/taxpayers when they willingly bargained with their employees to exchange labor for a promised future benefit. What is incorrect is the narrative that those local governments were misled into making those pension increases. What would now be unfair is, having received the bargained for labor, allowing local governments to walk away from funding the promised benefits because they now want to spend current public funds on other things.

Bay Area

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