Monday the L.A. City Council approved next year’s budget that included reductions in City services, new and higher fees on Angelenos, and the possible elimination of at least 761 employee positions. Difficult under any circumstances, these decisions are necessary and responsible steps towards addressing Los Angeles’ serious budget deficit.
Eleven councilmembers voted for the budget: Council President Eric Garcetti, Tony Cardenas, Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz, Tom LaBonge, Bernard Parks, Jan Perry, Ed Reyes, Bill Rosendahl, Greig Smith and Dennis Zine. These councilmembers prevailed over the misguided notion that city government is an employment service, and the fiscal denial about the need to pass a real budget now.
For the past few months, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council have been struggling to make up another $400 million annual shortfall in the City’s treasury. While exacerbated by the deep recession, the City’s structural deficit resulted from years of spending more than the City took in. The shortfall is compounded by the multi-billion dollar unfunded public pension liability that is growing larger every year.
Much work remains to be done. Negotiations with City union leaders are ongoing, so the number of layoffs and furloughs could fluctuate by the week. There will undoubtedly be more attempts at creative accounting, along with plenty of political posturing. Let’s hope that the cooler heads who prevailed yesterday will keep moving in the right financial direction.
Angelenos deserve real action that ends this Groundhog Day repeat of the perpetual budget crisis.
It took years to put Los Angeles on the brink of financial catastrophe, but Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council have the opportunity to prove that they are the courageous and decisive leaders that Los Angeles needs. Let’s hope yesterday’s actions are a harbinger of things to come – especially real public pension reform and the development of a long-term, strategic vision for how our City operates. Yesterday was a good start.
The L.A. Area Chamber would also like to applaud the L.A. City Council for creating the Office of Economic Analysis, as part of the budget deliberations.