Last spring, I wrote about the municipal atomic bomb that threatens to decimate L.A.’s treasury and potentially lead to bankruptcy. The City of L.A.’s public pension crisis continues to grow, but fortunately our leaders are now prepared to act. Difficult decisions must be made to pull us back from the brink.
By 2015, Los Angeles will need $2 billion every year to fund its public employee pension plan, five times as much as the $400 million budget deficit the City faced this year.
Unless action is taken soon, these pension contributions will consume the money the City needs to hire more police officers, respond to fires, repair our streets, pick up our trash, mow the grass in our parks and maintain our other municipal services. The good news is that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council are now focused on this crisis.
There are many major steps that must be taken to fix the City’s pension system. For new employees, the system must be completely reformed to include greater contributions by employees and increasing the minimum retirement age well beyond 55, where it is today. For future employees, their retirement contributions should also fluctuate based on market conditions so that taxpayers don’t take all the risk from a downturn in the market.
For existing employees, the City should engage in labor negotiations that ask employees to increase their retirement contributions in order to minimize layoffs and reductions in pay.
Implementing these and other reforms will mean dealing with a host of politically-sensitive issues. But the alternative is an atomic bomb for the City, citizens and businesses of Los Angeles.
Time is of the essence. This pension crisis took decades to develop, but we have limited time to put solutions in place. Take a moment today to signal your support for pension reform to the Mayor and City Council. They’ve taken a bold step forward. Now is the time to save our City from this municipal time bomb.