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L.A. Council caps healthcare subsidy for retired cops, firefighters

June 14, 2011 |  2:51 pm

Looking to pare back retirement costs in a tight budget year, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to freeze the amount of money provided for the healthcare of retired police officers and firefighters.

On an 11 to 2 vote, the council approved an ordinance that caps the monthly healthcare subsidy at $1,097 for retired sworn employees starting July 1. That ordinance, which will require a second vote in 30 days before it can go into effect, is part of a larger effort to persuade police officers and firefighters to contribute a portion of their salaries toward retiree healthcare costs.

The proposal was denounced by representatives of the city’s two public safety unions, which are still in contract talks with city negotiators. “Our members are going to see this as bad faith, as an effort to bully them,” said Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers.

Tuesday’s vote took place after the council spent more than an hour behind closed doors. The two opposing votes were cast by council members Richard Alarcon and Janice Hahn.

Healthcare costs for retired police and firefighters have grown from $31.4 million in 2006 to $113.8 million this year, according to the mayor’s office. In the written proposal, council members said a failure to approve the ordinance would threaten essential city services.

City officials also have been in talks with the Police Protective League on the extension of a deal to reduce the overtime pay that officers can receive in a given year. Police officers have been instructed to take time off once they have accumulated 250 hours of overtime. In previous years, officers received overtime pay once they had banked 96 overtime hours.

Villaraigosa had sent a letter to council members urging them to approve the ordinance, saying it would eliminate a $41-million hole in the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

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