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Greuel to study raising retirement age of current L.A. workers

April 03, 2013|By Catherine Saillant
  • City Controller and mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel speaks at the Faculty Center at UCLA.
City Controller and mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel speaks at the Faculty… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles controller and mayoral hopeful Wendy Greuel said Wednesday she would consider raising the retirement age for current city workers, along with other changes to the city's pension systems, to help Los Angeles close persistent budget gaps.

But Greuel, in comments at Cal State Northridge, said she would seek changes only through collective bargaining, not by forcing new rules on workers. Consulting with both business and labor would help break the "paralysis" at City Hall and is a key difference between herself and her opponent, Councilman Eric Garcetti, Greuel said during an appearance at the university's Career Center, where she was endorsed by San Fernando Valley Congressman Brad Sherman.

Full Coverage: L.A.’s Race for Mayor

"I’m looking at current employees on age, on pension capping, on pension spiking. Those are a variety of things that I have put on the table,'' Greuel said. "My relationship both with business and labor has been to have them part of the decision-making, as being at the table and negotiating."

Growing pension debt has plagued the city in recent years and is expected to continue. The city is projecting to pay $999 million in pension costs for 2013-14 fiscal year, up from $848 million for the current year.

Greuel continued her recent campaign theme, portraying herself as a leader who would be independent from city workers unions that have spent heavily backing her candidacy.

In the March primary, Greuel received nearly $2 million in independent aid, much of it from city unions. She has also gained the backing of City Hall's largest and most influential public employee unions, including Department of Water and Power workers.

On Tuesday, she gave a speech saying existing workers need to make more sacrifices but gave no details on cost-cutting proposals. At Wednesday's endorsement stop, she elaborated by saying she is looking at raising the retirement age.

She said she "absolutely" had told labor leaders during private talks when she was seeking their endorsement that further "sacrifices" might be on the table.

"They are receptive to being at the table, they are receptive to looking at all of the options so that we can ensure that we have a pension system that actually is sustainable,'' she said in answer to questions from the media. "It doesn’t benefit anyone if a pension system if not sustainable."

Civilian workers currently can retire as early as age 55; police and fire employees can step down with full benefits beginning at age 50.

Greuel has criticized Garcetti for agreeing to city employee layoffs and lower pensions for new workers without collective bargaining. Garcetti continues to paint Greuel as not having enough independence from her labor allies. Greuel has been more directly confronting the question of her union support.

"I believe I have labor and business because I’ve said, whether I was in front of [a San Fernando Valley business group] or the Chamber of Commerce or the labor leaders, I’ve said we have to get out of this fiscal crisis and said to them, 'Let’s work on this together,''' Greuel said Tuesday.

Former mayoral candidate Kevin James, who finished third in the primary, has endorsed Garcetti, saying he has shown a willingness to go "toe to toe" with powerful interests at City Hall. The Republican's endorsement could help Garcetti in the San Fernando Valley, where James attracted support from conservative voters.

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Twitter: @csaillant2

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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