SAN DIEGO -- Despite intense opposition from area unions, San Diego voters approved a pair of labor-related ballot measures.
Proposition A bars the city from requiring Project Labor Agreements on municipal construction contracts, while Proposition B closes the city's debt- ridden pension system to most new employees.
Supporters of Proposition A said they believe PLAs squeeze out nonunion contractors and force up prices on big projects.
The state Legislature in the past year enacted a pair of laws that forbid the state from financing capital improvements in jurisdictions where PLAs are banned. Because of that, opponents said San Diego could lose out on millions of dollars if the measure passes.
According to a legal analysis by the City Attorney's Office, the ballot measure includes exceptions that allow PLAs if required by the state or federal governments, or if needed to receive state or federal funding -- making the impact of its passage uncertain.
Under Proposition B, new city employees other than police officers will be given 401(k)-type retirement plans instead of being enrolled in the pension system. Also, only base salary over the next five years will be calculated into a worker's eventual retirement pay.
Supporters, including Mayor Jerry Sanders, DeMaio and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and critics have squabbled over the financial impact on the city.
Backers said it could save somewhere close to $1 billion over the next 30 years because it slows down the growth of pension payouts.
"I think when we finally highlighted to San Diegans that there's no reason why one class of employees should get better retirement benefits than another class of employees -- and it also means we have fewer services because of that -- I think the voters made an overwhelming choice,'' said Sanders, a prime backer of Proposition B. "We want to be fair to our employees, but we also think what's fair for us is fair for them.''
Two other supporters, Councilman Kevin Faulconer and San Diego County Taxpayers Association Executive Director Lani Lutar, said they expect the pension reform movement to spread nationally.
"This was a citizen's initiative, and the citizens of San Diego have voted overwhelmingly for pension reform,'' Faulconer said.
Those against the measure said it discriminates against city workers and would cost the city more money in the short run. Opponents said its provisions will get tied up in court for years, so even if it passes, it will be a long time before it is implemented.
Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, told City News Service that she expects Proposition B to be overturned by the courts, and for San Diegans to repeal Proposition A in the next couple of years, once its costs become clear.
"There's a third branch of government for a reason,'' Gonzalez said, referring to the court system.
Legal challenges have already been mounted against Proposition B, but multiple judges have ruled the voters should weigh in before the substantive issues are litigated. A hearing on legal action brought by the state Public Employment Relations Board is scheduled for June 22.
City Council President Tony Young told City News Service that he hopes to place implementation of Proposition B on next week's meeting agenda.