City Hall employees should be recognized for agreeing to cover a portion of their health insurance premiums and City Manager Rod Gould and his management team should be commended for tackling this controversial topic at a time when emotions are running high because of the recession and its impact on our wallets.

Santa Monica city employees, not including police officers, recently agreed to pay 5.5 percent for their health insurance, whereas before they had to contribute nothing. Santa Monica was one of a handful of cities still offering such a generous program to its employees. While the $11 to $80 per month that employees will have to pay is nothing compared to what private employees shell out for less coverage, it is a positive first step toward shoring up City Hall’s finances, with employees agreeing to carry some of the load along with residents and businesses in the form of higher fees and cuts to services. It is going to take a balanced approach to weather this fiscal storm all municipal governments are facing in California. Gould recognizes this, as do city employees.

Pension reform should be next and we strongly urge Gould to stick to his guns and tackle this difficult issue in the spring when labor contracts are up for renegotiation. We support our city employees, but it is becoming impossible for taxpayers to cover generous retirement and health benefits. We are in a new era and it is time to recognize the need for reform.

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