L.A. mayoral candidate Perry calls for more public pension reform
Warning that Los Angeles is facing insolvency, mayoral candidate and City Councilwoman Jan Perry outlined her plan for reforming the city’s employee pension and benefits system.
"The truth is that we cannot afford to continue to pay our city workforce in its current configuration,” said Perry in an address billed as her first major campaign policy speech.
Perry said she would press city employees to increase the amount they contribute to their healthcare and pension costs. About 70% of the city’s workforce pays nothing toward their health insurance premiums, said City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana. Some employees contribute as little as 3% toward their pensions.
The changes would save an estimated $44 million per year, Perry said. That savings would make only make a small dent in the city’s budget shortfall, which is expected to reach $1 billion over the next five years.
Perry said the proposals were the beginning of a larger conversation she hopes to have about the city’s gloomy finances, which have led to widespread service cuts since the economic recession began.
"We’re on the verge of almost being nonfunctional,” she said.
Still, Perry said she would not support a proposed half-cent increase to the sales tax supported by Council President Herb Wesson. The proposal, which a council committee will consider Friday, would generate about $220 million. Perry called that and other proposed tax increases “a gimmick” that would forestall tough decisions.
“It was passed not because it’s going to create more jobs or because it would close our long-term structural deficit,” she said. “It passed because it is an election year and it’s a good policy on which to campaign,” she said, adding that she’s seen no evidence that it’s helped the local economy. Perry voted to pass the tax holiday initially.
Perry has lagged behind her opponents in fundraising, collecting less than half of what Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti have each amassed in campaign cash.
But Perry, who is Jewish, said she is confident she’ll do well with the city’s black, Jewish and female voters. She pointed to the recent election of Jackie Lacey as Los Angeles district attorney as proof that candidates can come from behind.
Photo: Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry in 2011. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times