LA Mayor's Budget Cuts for 231 Layoffs, Benefit Changes

Hundreds of layoffs, pension changes are in Villaraigosa budget

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    Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, flanked by police Chief Charlie Beck and fire Chief Brian Cummings, presents his 2012-13 budget on April 20, 2012.

    Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposed budget includes laying off 231 city employees while restoring some fire services that have been cut and keeping police staffing at the same level.

    In a budget proposal presented Friday afternoon, Villaraigosa said the city would eliminate a total of 669 jobs -- most of them currently unfilled. Originally, he said, 800 positions were going to be cut.

    The $7.2 billion budget also seeks to reduce worker benefits. It assumes the retirement age is raised from 60 to 67, Villaraigosa said.

    "To keep our fiscal house in order, we’re going to have to reduce the longterm budget cost drivers: labor, health care and pension costs," Villaraigosa said.

    Police Chief Charlie Beck and fire Chief Brian Cummings were at the mayor’s side during the budget unveiling.

    The two public safety departments account for about a quarter of the city's general fund budget. The fire department's budget was slashed by more than $50 million last year during the rollout of a new deployment strategy that has generated controversy related to emergency response times.

    Villaraigosa said his budget has funding for six new ambulances and an engine company in the San Fernando Valley. It allows the Los Angeles Fire Department to begin recruiting and hiring new firefighters next year.

    "The LAFD is a world-class department for a world-class city. We intend to keep it that way," the mayor said.

    Villaraigosa emphasized that the city's structural deficit -- projected in 2010 to balloon to nearly $1 billion -- would shrink to about $200 million by 2014 under his plan.

    The 2012-13 budget seeks to close a $238 million deficit. It uses $83 million in one-time solutions that include payments from the dissolution of the city's redevelopment agency, special parking revenue for basic services and $29 million in Medi-Cal reimbursements anticipated for this year

    The budget cuts costs in the mayor's own office by 8 percent, and assumes the City Council will make the same cut to its budget.

    "We’ve used a scalpel, not an ax," Villaraigosa.

    At the same time, the budget provides $2.5 million for a new economic development organization. It also provides for expanded library hours, more street paving and more pothole-filling. It also establishes a $211 million reserve fund.

    Speaking on KCRW’s “Which Way, L.A.?” on Thursday, the mayor said the city needed to cut back on benefit programs that cover workers’ dependents with no financial contribution from employees.

    “Going forward we can no longer afford to have … an entire family on Kaiser for free. No other employer does that,” Villaraigosa said on KCRW. “There’s no employee contribution. We think a 10 percent contribution is reasonable.”

    He echoed those comments about health care costs Friday. His proposal would require city workers to pay 6 to 10 percent more toward their health insurance or pay more in co-pays and receive fewer benefits, starting Jan. 1.

    On KPCC's "AirTalk" Friday, union attorney Victor Gordo said city workers were "disappointed and dismayed" with the proposed budget.

    The City Council is expected to weight the budget over the next two months. The Budget and Finance Committee will begin hearings to vet the mayor's budget on April 27.

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