Like the voters in 14 North Carolina counties, San Diego voters recently rejected a sales-tax increase on the November ballot.

What?s the response from the nation?s ninth-largest city? An idea that might make sense for North Carolina as well:

Mayor Jerry Sanders unveiled what he calls a radical idea: He’ll ask voters to eliminate the city’s traditional defined-benefit pension plans for new employees, offering them 401(k)-like savings accounts instead. “We saw the private sector go through this,” the 60-year-old Republican says. “Government will have to relook at how we do stuff as well.” …

Defined-contribution plans such as 401(k)s, where employees bear the risk of poor investments, are a rarity in the public sector. Only 17 percent of government workers have such accounts, about one-third the number in the private sector. Says Chuck Reed, the mayor of San Jose, which is also considering cutting pension benefits to new employees: “San Diego is the leader, the bleeding edge.”

Of course, the idea of shifting toward a defined-contribution system is nothing new.