LA County Seal

By Christina Villacorte, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 02/20/14, 8:13 PM PST | Updated: 9 hrs ago

Realizing they both have a lot to lose if public employee retirement costs continue spiraling out of control, Los Angeles County and its labor unions have agreed to what they called “sweeping reforms” that could save as much as $840 million over the next 30 years.

County Supervisor Don Knabe said the tentative deal would make “the most significant reductions to retirement obligations in over 35 years.”

“The changes we made to retiree health are solid and sustainable for members and the county,” added Bob Schoonover, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents about half of the county workforce.

“They protect retirement security for current and future employees and help control costs,” he added. “The contract our members just overwhelmingly ratified keeps the focus where it should be — on the services we provide and the communities that rely on them.”

The county Board of Supervisors is poised to approve the proposal on Tuesday, just days after the California Public Employees’ Retirement System — the biggest public pension fund in the world — voted to set higher pension contributions from the state and many of its cities, some of which have already been driven into bankruptcy by the current pension contributions.

L.A. County, which has its own retirement plan, independent of CalPERS, took a different route, opting instead to cut back on retiree health care.

Knabe explained the county currently pays nearly $500 million a year to cover the health care not only of its retired employees’ but certain members of their families as well.

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