In a surprising move, the San Diego City Council unanimously voted to support Mayor Sanders’ call for imposing 6% salary cutbacks on city workers. Finally, some common sense at city hall!

Necessity is the mother of invention – and reform. In essence, in this economy, the city was rapidly running out of budget options – and the city council recognized this fact of life.

Yet, as good as the news is, it’s only a first step towards fiscal sanity. A good first step, but still only a first step.

The city’s retirement health care costs and funding deficit are continuing to grow. The city’s pension annual payment will rise dramatically in the next two years, barring an economic miracle. Indeed, San Diego is the only city with two fully funded pension plans – allowing 30-year city workers to retire with 140% pensions. Finally, most city employee salaries are still above comparable private sector wages – for no good reason.

There is one good aspect and one bad aspect to this city council decision.

The good news is that the city has shown the rest of the local municipalities that one CAN stand up to the unions. Politicians in La Mesa, El Cajon and Vista opted for higher sales taxes rather than controlling runaway city costs. Chula Vista politicians are supporting a May vote to raise sales taxes rather than cut labor’s compensation. San Diego (and to a degree, Escondido) city councils have now shown that there is an alternative. Perhaps this message that there is another way to deal with budget shortfalls will spread throughout California

The bad news is that San Diego politicians may somehow think they’ve resolved the spending problem. They may now start looking to raise taxes and fees, rather than doing what the voters want – start putting non-safety city services out to competitive bid. Savings of 40% or more are likely from such efforts, but such actions call for further resolve by our elected officials to represent the citizens rather than just the public employee labor unions.

We shall see.