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California Briefing / Los Angeles

Labor leaders prevail on pension payment period

September 02, 2009|David Zahniser

Giving a victory to several public employee unions, a panel of Los Angeles pension board members agreed Tuesday to give city officials the maximum amount of time to pay off the cost of an early retirement plan seen as pivotal to erasing a $530-million budget shortfall.

In a 2-1 vote, the pension committee ignored the advice of its top executive and recommended that the cost of early retirement be repaid over 15 years.

Sally Choi, who heads the Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System, had argued that a five-year payment schedule would be the most fiscally prudent strategy for the early retirement plan, which would allow 2,400 workers to leave up to five years ahead of schedule with full benefits.

Her recommendation infuriated the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which warned that such a limitation would upend the budget by making early retirement too expensive to carry out. "We think the committee did the responsible thing," said coalition Chairwoman Cheryl Parisi, whose group favors early retirement as an alternative to layoffs.

The seven-member pension board, which has a majority of its members selected by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is scheduled to take a final vote next week.

-- David Zahniser

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