D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) today called a news conference to announce his opposition to a pension reform bill introduced earlier this year by colleague David A. Catania (I-At Large). Appearing with Barry were the leaders of the city’s police, fire and teachers unions — the city employees who receive pensions pursuant to their collective bargaining agreements.
The timing was peculiar. The Council held a hearing on the bill last month, which inspired the aforementioned pension-receiving employees to organize against the bill, which would limit future cost-of-living increases in the interest of staving off a potential future fiscal calamity. There was also talk that the immediate $52.6 million revenue hit estimated by city finance officials might ease the council’s budget cutting, but both Catania and Chairman Kwame R. Brown announced in no uncertain terms that the pension bill would not be on the table come budget time.
Still, Barry called reporters today to denounce a bill whose prospects were cloudy at best. Aside from his typical relish in opposing things supported by Catania and vice versa, he explained in an interview afterward that he had been inundated with phone calls and messages from employees concerned about the bill, and he wanted to get the word out: “This bill isn’t going nowhere,” he said. “That bill is dead.”
He said nine of his fellow colleagues also opposed the bill — including Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who as chair of the Government Operations Committee controls its fate.
Cheh confirmed this evening that the bill is dead on arrival: “It’s not going anywhere. Everyone know it’s not going anywhere,” she said. ”It’s totally dead.”
She said that the unions had made a “very strong argument” that changing benefits for existing employees and retirees would unfairly renege on promises already made. But she said she might consider a change to pension benefits for future city employees.