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EDITORIAL: California court upholds San Diego’s courageous public pension reforms

Last week, we told you about an anti-taxpayer measure pending in the Nevada Legislature that would make confidential the names of retirees drawing public pensions. Proponents of Senate Bill 384 claim they simply want to protect government workers from identity theft and other cybercrimes.

That’s complete and utter hogwash.

Instead, a California court ruling on Tuesday highlights what’s really driving those who hope to limit the information available about taxpayer-funded retirement benefits — and it has little to do with privacy concerns.

The case in question resulted in a unanimous decision this week by the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal upholding San Diego’s five-year struggle to rein in the costs of its expensive public pension system.

Back in 2012, San Diego voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition B, which replaced the city’s defined benefit plan with a system that diverted new municipal hires — except for police officers — into 401(k) type accounts. The move was intended to keep the city from going bankrupt due to billions in outstanding pension obligations.

Government unions responded in predictable fashion: They tried to overturn the will of the people. Labor leaders argued that the San Diego mayor, a proponent of the reform, violated a law requiring governments to negotiate with unions on ballot measures that might affect contracts.

The unions got a sympathetic hearing at the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, a panel stacked with union sympathizers which ruled in 2015 that the mayor had engaged in an unfair labor practice. It also ordered the city to pay attorney fees and to retroactively fund traditional pensions, with interest, for those hired since the vote.

The arrogance was astounding. Not only did the board, in service to public employee unions, attempt to impose massive new costs on San Diego taxpayers —a sort of punishment for having dared to challenge the cushy status quo — but it essentially told voters that their clear message at the polls was irrelevant and they should just keep quiet and continue to funnel cash into the system.

But the appeals court wasn’t buying any of it. The judges ruled the mayor did nothing wrong in advocating the change and that the city may now move forward.

Nevada’s government unions and their progressive supporters have no interest in seeing the San Diego reform replicated here. Transparency and accountability are the enemies of those who prefer that taxpayers remain oblivious to the generous terms and payments available through the state Public Employee Retirement System. How many workers in the private sector can retire at age 55 and receive 75 percent of their salary every year for life?

That’s the real reason why certain special interests hope to shepherd Senate Bill 384 through the Legislature. To them, the less you know, the better.

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