Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006 | During opening arguments Tuesday, City Attorney Mike Aguirre told the judge presiding over San Diego’s major pension case that the only way to save the city’s retirement system from running dry is to roll back $500 million worth of employee benefits.
Aguirre used his first presentation in the case to propose a plan for shedding the city’s $1.4 billion pension deficit of retirement benefits created in 1996 and 2002, a move he said would help employees attain a secure pension plan.
“This is about restoring the actuarial soundness of the system by removing the rotten core of unfunded benefits,” Aguirre said.
Employee union leaders have vehemently disagreed, saying the city – whether it can currently afford it or not – is bound by law to pay the pension enhancements that are at the center of this trial. Critics, including some members of the City Council, have also argued as much.
Because Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton has limited the scope of the issues he will deal with during the trial’s opening phase, Aguirre didn’t use his opening statement to attack the 1996 and 2002 pension deals he is challenging.
Instead, attorneys in the trial’s first phase are largely confined to dealing with legal issues, such as which points can be argued in the latter stages of the trial. They’ll also argue about whether the judge can actually scale back pension benefits if the deals they were part of are found to be illegal.