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Mayoral Candidates Blast Filner's Pension Plan

The opponents say his plan just pushes the problem down the road.

Two of Bob Filner's opponents in the San Diego mayor's race blasted his pension reform plan Monday, contending that he'd be leaving the city's primary financial problem for future generations to fix.

The Democratic congressman estimated that his plan, released Saturday on his campaign website -- would save $753.1 million over 15 years, mostly from refinancing the debt in the retirement system for city employees.

While Filner has touted various facets of his plan verbally in the past, he previously had not released a written version or numbers to justify his conclusions.

Councilman Carl DeMaio said Filner wants to pay debt with more debt, while District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said he was kicking "his rusty pension can down our crumbling roads."

The plan involves:

-- barring future annual payouts of more than $99,999 to retirees;

-- negotiating a five-year contract with the city's six labor unions, which Filner said would save $250 million in pension payments over 15 years;

-- eliminating offsets to employee retirement contributions, which would save $20 million over 15 years;

-- putting half of any budget surplus into the pension system to pay down the more than $2 billion deficit; and

-- establishing an advisory panel to study fiscal matters such as refinancing the pension debt, pension governance reform, changing assumptions on pension investment earnings and cost-of-living increases.

Filner's proposal to refinance the pension debt, previously a major talking point for the candidate but now relegated to an item for advisers to study, could save an estimated $483.1 million over 15 years, he said.

"Dozens of cities in California and across the country have done this," Filner said. "The county of San Diego, widely considered to be one of the most fiscally conservative and financially sound counties in the state, has bonded their pension system three times for a total of $1.4 billion over the past several years."

Refinancing the debt is not reform, DeMaio said.

"Instead of committing to actual action and reform, Bob Filner proposes to create yet another study group," DeMaio said. "Ten years should have been enough time to study this issue already."

Dumanis said Filner's plan would leave debt for future generations.

"Debt for future generations is not a solution to our pension problems," she said. "Voters clearly want real pension reform and they want it now."

Both DeMaio and Dumanis support Proposition B, which would give most new city employees 401(k) programs instead of enrolling them in the pension system. Also, only base compensation over the next five years would be used to later calculate pension payouts for current workers.

Filner opposes the proposed initiative, which he said would cost almost $100 million to implement over the next few years and does nothing to reduce the pension deficit. If it passes, it will result in years of political wrangling and litigation, he said.

-City News Service

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