City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

June 8, 2012
Sacramento council steps up talk on pensions, tax measure

The pension and sales tax debates are stepping up at City Hall.

During a discussion on a possible November sales tax ballot measure Thursday night, members of the City Council made their strongest comments to date on what they said was the need for pension reform with city unions.

The conversation included a request by Councilman Steve Cohn that the city attorney's office provide a legal opinion on a possible ballot measure on pension changes - much like San Diego and San Jose did this week. Cohn wants to know whether a ballot measure here requiring added employee contributions to pensions would be legal, given that those changes could supersede the collective bargaining process.

Other council members expressed a desire to "get the city's house in order" before asking the voters to raise the sales tax. A half-percentage point increase in the sales tax would generate more than $30 million a year for the city, officials said.

"It's critical that we demonstrate to the public that we have undergone pension reform with our employee groups," said Councilman Rob Fong. "It would not be responsible for us as a city to go out and ask for more money to support our general fund activities if we're not taking care of business from a cost side."

The sales tax discussion will likely heat up in the coming weeks. The council has until late July to place a measure on the November ballot.

Meanwhile, city officials have an agreement with the union representing mid-level management and other staffers that will save 11 workers from being laid off. The agreement means employees in the Sacramento City Exempt Employees Association will start paying their employee share of their pensions.

The city also has a tentative agreement with Local 39, the largest union at City Hall with more than 1,000 employees. Under that tentative agreement - which is scheduled for a membership vote in the coming days - 20 workers would be saved from the unemployment line.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

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