The State Worker

Judge says San Jose can’t alter current employees’ pensions

A judge has ruled that San Jose can’t carry out a voter-approved plan that would have required current city employees to pay more to keep their pensions at current benefit levels or switch to a less-generous plan prospectively. Accrued benefits wouldn’t have been touched.

Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas said in today’s tentative ruling that part of Measure B “impairs vested rights and is invalid.”

However, Lucas affirmed Measure B’s provision to cut workers’ pay in order to gain savings that would have come from prospectively reducing benefits for current employees, handing the meaasure’s proponents, including San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a win.

Nearly 70 percent of San Jose voters approved Measure B in June 2012. Reed championed the measure against heavy union opposition and is now hoping to put a statewide measure before voters that would allow state and local government employers to alter pensions for current employees under certain conditions.

Unions challenged 15 provisions of the San Jose pension measure. Lucas sided with the city on 10 issues, including more stringent disability retirement rules and retiree health insurance contribution hikes. The unions won five arguments, including its assertion that retiree cost-of-living increases must be preserved.

The next phase: Appeals by both sides contesting their trial court losses.

San Jose Police Officers' Union v. City of San Jose