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Crunch time at L.A. City Hall over budget cutbacks

May 18, 2009 | 10:22 am


It’s crunch time at City Hall.

The Los Angeles City Council this morning takes up the proposed $7.05-billion budget, and there will be a lot of heavy lifting, including proposals to lay off thousands of city workers, scrap Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s effort to expand the LAPD and possibly auction off city parking garages and meters to raise some much-needed cash.

To help close the city’s expected $530-million budget shortfall in 2009-2010, the council’s budget committee last week recommended laying off 800 city workers, mandating 26 unpaid furlough days and freezing police hiring. Villaraigosa said he may be forced to lay off up to 3,000 workers if the city’s public employee unions do not agree to make major concessions, include a salary freeze, furloughs or paying higher costs for health and pension benefits.

Me_kjusennc Scores of union members were packing into the City Council chambers before the 10 a.m. hearing was set to begin. Union members also circled City Hall in cars and city trucks, honking horns in protest of the proposed cuts.

The L.A. Coalition of Unions, which represents 22,000 city employees, is pushing for an early retirement package, although the Villaraigosa administration said that would add too much of a financial burden to the city’s underfunded pension systems.

The city’s top budget analyst predicts that L.A. could face a $1-billion budget deficit in 2010-2011, and one even larger the year after, because of investment losses in the pension systems. By law, the city is obligated to keep the pension systems solvent.

Council President Eric Garcetti, a Navy reservist currently deployed on a training mission, is expected to fly in today to see if he can broker an agreement over the mayor’s police hiring program. If the council votes to freeze police hiring, the city would be expected to lose 520 police officers through normal attrition.

-- Phil Willon

Photos: (Top) Unionized city workers from Local 112, including Los Angeles City Fire Department members, cheer a speaker who supports their cause during a budget debate at Los Angeles City Hall. (Bottom) Unionized city workers assemble in an overflow area outside the council chambers as they listen to the budget debate. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times