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Facing new budget strains, Villaraigosa calls for more job cuts

Antonio villaraigosa speaks

Faced with yet another budget shortfall, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Monday for the elimination of 209 city jobs and urged the City Council to press ahead with a plan for rolling back pension benefits for newly hired civilian workers.

In a letter to council members, Villaraigosa said overspending and "unanticipated expenditures" had left L.A. with a deficit just four months into a new fiscal year. He asked policymakers to cast a second and final vote on his reduced-benefits pension plan and said his budget advisors would begin identifying new long-term cost-cutting measures, including a ballot measure to strip the city attorney's office of any responsibility for civil cases.

"The fiscal reality calls on us to do business differently and move forward with initiatives we never would have considered under different circumstances," he wrote.

The mayor's letter came out just ahead of a long-awaited budget report from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, L.A.'s top budget official. Santana is expected to detail the city's latest financial woes and give his recommendation on employee layoffs. He originally asked for layoffs last spring but the council decided to hold off on a decision for six months.

In his letter, Villaraigosa said Santana would also be examining a new list of potential cuts, including a reduction in the starting salaries of civilian city workers, elimination of nonfederal city holidays and paring back raises that are set to go into effect in the next two years.

Villaraigosa's message comes nearly a week after two dozen union leaders sent their own letter to City Hall asking the council to table the pension rollback, which would raise the retirement age and cut benefits for newly hired civilian employees who are not at the Department of Water and Power. That move would save $30 million to $70 million over five years, according to Santana.

Those union leaders -- including Maria Elena Durazo, head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor -- asked council members to obtain a new actuarial plan that would spell out the financial costs and benefits of pension rollback before a final vote is cast. The letter made no mention, however, of any legal action by the federation to block implementation of the new pension plan.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last month. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.

 
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