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Bob Filner, the lone Democratic candidate in San Diego’s mayoral race, sat last week with progressive local news website OB Rag writers Andy Cohen and Annie Lane, giving an extensive interview and speaking at length for the first time publicly on a long-delayed city budget management plan that he’s touted as an alternative to Proposition B, the initiative to eliminate or curtail city worker pensions championed by his three opponents.

Filner first moved to remind voters that the entirety of savings realized from Prop B come not from shifting workers from defined-benefit pensions to defined-contribution 401(k) retirement plans, but from the proposal to freeze benefit-eligible salaries for existing workers. The 401(k) plan has been proven by independent analysis to be more costly to the city over the long run than keeping the recently-reformed pension plan currently in place.

“The only savings come from the so-called salary freeze, but that’s negotiation. You cannot mandate that in a referendum,” Filner tells the Rag. “We’re gonna have 10 years of litigation probably as a result because it’s unclear whether it’s legal or not,” he continues, echoing beliefs expressed on Friday by San Diego Municipal Employees Association general manager Michael Zucchet that the proposal, if passed, would eventually be struck down by courts.

Filner says he also wants to renegotiate labor agreements with the unions representing city employees, reducing the current 4% annual raises the city is currently contractually obligated to. By reducing raises and placing a maximum pension limitation of $99,999 on all employees, he claims the city would experience significant cost savings over current projections and eliminate the six-figure pensions paid to a handful of former non-management level employees that have drawn the ire of pension reform proponents such as mayoral opponent Carl DeMaio, who was instrumental in placing Prop B on the June ballot.

Another part of Filner’s budget plan involves issuing $1 billion in new bonds at a rate 2% lower than the city currently pays on existing debt, amortized over 30 years instead of 15. He says this will save the city $550 million in the first 10 years of his plan, though no specific statement is made on how the extended term of the debt will affect long-range costs.

“If we have that $550 million now, we start fixing potholes, do the repairs, do the maintenance, and you fix things now and you don’t have to buy new ones in 15 years,” says Filner, seeming to argue that money spent on preventative maintenance in the short term will save on future costs. “In the long run I think it’s a lot cheaper.”

Filner also questions Convention Center expansion and pushes for stronger investment in urban core neighborhoods and the city’s ports in the full interview, linked above.

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Comments

AlMoncrief April 24, 2012 @ 1:09 p.m.

THE GREAT COLORADO PENSION HEIST OF 2010: DIAGNOSIS, “LEGISLATIVE SCHIZOPHRENIA.”

If two contradictory positions peacefully coexist in the mind of an individual that person is schizophrenic, but is it possible for an entire organization to exhibit schizophrenia? Be the judge.

The Colorado General Assembly has recently endorsed the following two public policy positions:

1 - “Colorado is in a fiscal crisis, Colorado PERA pension contracts must be breached!”

2 - “Colorado is not in a fiscal crisis, we are free to grant $100 million in property tax relief!”

How is it that this glaring inconsistency is readily apparent to me, but cannot force its way into the minds of our state legislators?

In 2000, Colorado voters amended Article X of the Colorado Constitution to allow the General Assembly, at its discretion, to exempt up to $100,000 of the value of a qualifying senior’s home from property taxation. Tax relief under this 2000 constitutional amendment is optional.

New heights of absurdity are reached when one learns that the Colorado General Assembly provides funding to pensions that ARE NOT its legal obligation, while simultaneously ignoring pension debts that ARE its legal obligation. Over the last two decades the Colorado General Assembly has pumped more than half a billion dollars into pension obligations that are not its responsibility, those of local governments (old local government fire and police pension obligations).

In the coming years, judges may legitimately ask “Why should the state of Colorado be permitted to breach its contractual pension obligations in years that it has provided discretionary tax relief, ignored its annual required contributions, or directed state resources to pension obligations that are not its own?”

How can the Colorado Attorney General argue with a straight face that it is “actuarially necessary” for Colorado to breach its pension contracts, when the state is giving back tax revenue, ignoring its annual required contributions, and voluntarily paying pension obligations for other governmental entities?

While states across the nation are enacting prospective, legal, moral pension reforms, the Colorado Legislature has adopted a retroactive pension reform bill (SB 10-001).

The Colorado General Assembly distills the political preferences of all Coloradans. Our character is reflected in their actions, by observing the Legislature we know ourselves better.

So, who are we? The verdict is ugly. Collectively, through our elected representatives, it appears that we will commit fraud when it is financially opportune. We will construct elaborate rationalizations for outright theft. We will abandon our contractual obligations when convenient. We will be distinguished by our moral laxity.

Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook, Visit saveperacola.com, Support the Colorado pension theft lawsuit!

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Andy Cohen April 24, 2012 @ 5:53 p.m.

Hey Dave:

Thanks for the shout out. Just one minor correction: Filner says that those city employees who have the six figure pensions are all management types, while the average city pensioner draws around $29k per year. And the $550 million he says will be saved in the first 10 years was attributed to the refinancing component only. More will be saved via renegotiating labor contracts for a five year term (it will work similarly to the Prop B salary freeze, with a smaller pay increase than is currently called for in the contracts instead of a complete freeze), but he didn't pin down a figure on that.

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SurfPuppy619 April 24, 2012 @ 11:40 p.m.

Filner says that those city employees who have the six figure pensions are all management types, while the average city pensioner draws around $29k per year

Every cop and firewhiner in this city pulls a $100K+ pension and they ARE NOT "management types".

The AVERAGE pension for a 30 year employee is $68K, try leaving out all those who retired in the 1970's and the ones who only worked for 5 years when you do your "averages" next time.

Nice try, but that public employee spin won't work here, we are wayyyyy to smart to let those whoppers go unchallenged here Andy.

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SurfPuppy619 April 24, 2012 @ 11:37 p.m.

The 401(k) plan has been proven by independent analysis to be more costly to the city over the long run than keeping the recently-reformed pension plan currently in place.

LOL...if Filner actually said that he is off his rocker and is a SURE loser before this race even starts....

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