Mayor’s union-backed pension proposal likely to face competitor on ballot 

As the mayor unveiled his long-awaited compromise with unions for changes to San Francisco’s pension system, the man who has become the  reform thorn in the side of both city officials and labor unions says, “It still leaves taxpayers on the hook.”

Public Defender Jeff Adachi says the proposal put forth by Mayor Ed Lee, the result of four months of negotiations with city unions, is not strong enough, and he will continue to gather signatures for a competing pension reform that must go before voters.

Lee unveiled a compromise measure Tuesday that will save The City about $1 billion during a 10-year period through increased contribution rates for government employees.

Adachi said while Lee’s measure saves between $60 million and $80 million a year, the measure he is proposing would save between $90 million and $140 million.

Reducing The City’s skyrocketing pension costs was the top priority of Lee and other officials with pension costs expected to double to nearly $800 million by 2014. Both health and pension costs are projected to increase by more than $2 billion during the next decade. Next fiscal year, The City’s pension bill is $422 million.

In November, Adachi placed on the ballot Proposition B, which would have made city workers pay more for pension and dependents’ health care benefits. It ignited a firestorm of controversy, and labor unions launched a successful $1 million campaign to defeat it. But labor also promised if the measure was defeated they would agree to pension changes this November.

There now could be  dueling pension ballot measures before voters in the fall. The mayor’s union-backed measure is being placed on the ballot through the legislative process, which the Board of Supervisors must approve and in which changes could be made. Adachi is placing his measure on the ballot by collecting signatures, and he has until July to submit it for the November election.

The risks are high if both measures are placed on the November ballot. If both are approved and Adachi’s measure receives more votes than Lee’s, Adachi said his would be law and the provisions in Lee’s that aren’t in his would also go into effect. Others have said if both land on the ballot it jeopardizes either one’s chances of passing.

“Our plan is fair, it’s responsible, it protects city services and it ensures ultimately that our workers can retire in dignity,” Lee said.

The measure was introduced Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors for review and a vote to place it on the ballot is expected in early July. It takes six votes to place the measure on the ballot, and more than six have already expressed their support.

Dueling pension reform measures

Mayor Ed Lee and Public Defender Jeff Adachi are proposing ballot measures for November that will require city workers to pay more for their retirement benefits.

Lee’s proposal
Savings: $60 million to $80 million annually

How: Fluctuating employee pension rate increases between 2.5 and 4.5 percent

Existing pension rates: Remain as is, 7.5 or 9 percent for newly hired public safety workers  

Anti-pension-spiking provision: Calculation for new hires based on salary over three years, not one or two

Who supports: Labor unions, Mayor Ed Lee, members of the Board of Supervisors

Adachi’s proposal

Savings: $90 million to $140 million annually

How: Fluctuating employee pension rate increase between 3 and 7.5 percent

Existing pension rates: Increase police, fire pension rates to 10 percent

Anti-pension-spiking provision: Calculation for new hires based on salary over five years, not one or two

Who supports: Collecting signatures to place on the ballot

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