monopoly_money.jpgA San Francisco Superior Court judge today agreed to let a city pension and health care reform measure promoted by Public Defender Jeff Adachi onto the city’s November ballot.

Proposition B seeks to raise city worker contributions to their pension plans to between 9 and 10 percent and to have employees pay half of their dependants’ health care costs.

Proponents argue that with city pension and health care costs skyrocketing, their reforms would save the city more than $165 million per year.

A San Francisco civil grand jury estimated earlier this year that costs could reach nearly $1 billion per year in five years.

Opponents have maintained that the health care increases would unfairly burden workers with hundreds of dollars more per month in payments for coverage for their children.

A coalition of city workers represented by firefighter, police, service worker and other unions sued to have the measure removed from the Nov. 2 ballot. They argued proponents violated election laws while seeking to place the measure on the ballot.

In his ruling today, Judge Harold Kahn dismissed all but one of the plaintiffs’ allegations.

He agreed that a “poison pill” section of the measure would be stricken.

That language would have imposed a five-year cap on city employee bargained compensation if the initiative passes and an employee successfully challenges the measure in court.

It was inserted because of worries that unions would seek to negotiate higher pay in order to make up the losses from the pension and health care contributions, according to Darcy Brown, spokesperson for SF Smart Reform, which is pushing the measure.

Both sides released statements today hailing Kahn’s decisions.

Adachi called it “an important victory for the people of this city.”

“Now the voters of San Francisco, not special interests, will finally have a choice on how their tax dollars are spent on pensions for city workers,” Adachi said.

Stand Up For Working Families, the group opposing the measure, said in a statement that Kahn’s poison pill ruling was “unprecedented” in its removal of language from a ballot initiative.

“We would have preferred that the judge remove the entire initiative, but we expect that San Franciscans will vote Prop B down when they learn how seriously flawed it is,” said Peter Saltzman, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Saltzman called the proposition “ill-conceived and mean-spirited” and said it “unfairly” doubles the cost of children’s health care for more than 30,000 public employees.

San Francisco voters already approved a ballot measure in June raising contributions to the pension fund by newly hired police and firefighters from 7.5 percent of their pay to 9 percent to cover the costs of their more expensive plans. Most other city employees still pay 7.5 percent.

Adachi’s proposal would require all uniformed members of the police and fire departments to contribute 10 percent of their pay to the fund. Other city employees would contribute 9 percent.

For dependant health care, city employees currently contribute 25 percent while the city pays 75 percent. Adachi’s measure would boost the employee contribution to 50 percent.

Savings from the pension changes are estimated to be about $82 million per year, and about $83.5 million in savings is expected each year from the increased employee health care payments, according to Brown.

The measure requires a simple majority of voters to pass.

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  • OXO Peeler

    Why don’t we just get rid of pensions? Just move to a 401(k) and 403(b) system.

    The current pension system keeps the employees hostage too. They can’t leave if the conditions are not good. It’s a win for the taxpayers, the employees and the future generations.