San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed

LOS ANGELES — Nearly 20 mayors and vice-mayors signed a letter to San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, urging him to end his statewide public pension reform efforts.

The opposition comes a month after Reed, along with four other California city mayors, filed papers with the California attorney general in the first step toward qualifying a statewide public pension reform measure for the November 2014 ballot.

“Like most Californians, we believe pension matters are best decided locally at the bargaining table rather than the ballot box,” the mayors said in a letter to Reed sent on Nov. 26. “Our cities have been successful in doing just that—as have the overwhelming majority of those in California.”

The majority of the mayors are Democrats, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore, and San Mateo Mayor David Lim. The letter was signed by 14 other mayors, two vice mayors, two county board supervisors, and five city council members.

Reed’s proposed Pension Reform Act of 2014 would amend the state constitution to allow state and local government employers to cut future accrual of pension benefits by current employees, while protecting benefits already earned.

Reed said that he agrees that pension matters are best decided locally, and that his initiative would empower local governments to do just that.

“Nothing in the initiative limits your ability to address your retirement benefit problems, nor does it dictate specific changes to your retirement plans,” Reed said in a letter responding to his colleagues on Tuesday. “It simply provides local governments with clear authority to negotiate retirement benefit changes for employees’ future years of service, while protecting the benefits they have earned for work already performed.”

He also noted that the initiative specifies that any changes to retirement benefits must comply with applicable collective bargaining laws.

The measure’s other initial sponsors included Democratic mayors Pat Morris of San Bernardino, Bill Kampe of Pacific Grove, and Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, as well as Republican Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim. Pulido has since dropped out as a formal supporter.

Opponents of the measure say they are concerned about several provisions that they say would likely increase costs to California’s cities.

They also said that Governor Jerry Brown’s pension measures enacted last year -- which only apply to future hires -- will save enough money for cities and the state to address pension concerns.

“Combined with the actions we are taking in our communities, we believe this will address the concerns about retirement benefits that your measure proposed to address,” mayors said in the letter. “As a result, we urge you to withdraw your measure and engage with us in constructive dialogue with public employees to address the pension challenges facing our communities.”

Reed, however, said that it’s clear that steps to deal with the pension problems so far have not been successful.

“Governor Brown has said that more needs to be done to solve our pension problems and [California Public Employees' Retirement System] recently projected that pension costs are going to rise by up to 50% in the coming years,” Reed said. “This will force many cities to consider painful service cuts and/or tax increases.”

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