The first element of any new pension plan should be progressive in scale: capping pensions at, say, $100,000 (or lower); eliminating pension spiking; and requiring high-paid employees to contribute a higher percentage to the fund than low-paid workers would make sense. Policy makers should treat this as what it is, a pay cut — and any cuts should fall disproportionately on those who are more able to afford it. Requiring the city to put its share into the fund every year, even if the market is booming, would help ease the pain in bad years.
But there should be no pension reform without tax reform. If San Francisco is going to ask its employees to do more to balance the local budget — and that probably has to happen — then city officials should be willing to ask the richest residents and businesses to share the pain too.