State Supreme Court takes up appeal challenging San Diego pension cutbacks

The state Supreme Court will review San Diego’s five-year-old pension cutbacks that, if overturned, would require the city to spend millions creating retroactive pensions for more than 3,000 workers hired since 2012.

The court voted unanimously on Wednesday to review an April ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeal that had vindicated the city and its pension cuts.

The case concerns whether Mayor Jerry Sanders and other city officials illegally put Proposition B, the city’s pension overhaul measure, on the 2012 ballot without conferring with labor groups.

The measure replaced guaranteed pensions with 401(k)-style retirement plans for all newly-hired city employees except police officers, making San Diego the only jurisdiction in California not to offer traditional pensions to new employees.

Estimates of how much it would cost the city to reverse Proposition B have ranged from $100 million to less than $20 million, but even the people making such guesses have always qualified them based on a wide number of variables.

It’s rare for the state Supreme Court to issue a notice of review, which means that the court considers some element of the appellate court ruling that vindicated the city worthy of judicial review and possible change.

If no review had been granted, which happens in more than 95 percent of cases where a review is requested, April’s appellate ruling would have become a published precedent throughout California.

It won’t be clear precisely which issues in the case the court is concerned about until the court’s weekly “pending issues summary” is published on Friday.

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