More budget cuts planned after L.A. voters reject sales tax hike
A day after voters soundly rejected a proposal to raise the city’s sales tax by half a cent, the city’s chief budget officer said officials have begun looking at new ways to cut the city’s budget.
“Everything has to be put back on the table, from the size of the police force to the restoration of fire services to the paving of our streets,” said Miguel Santana, who added that he hopes to have budget-cut options for council members to consider before the week is out.
“What the voters have said is … they are expecting us to solve 100% of the problem now, without new revenue,” Santana said.
Measure A, which would have raised Los Angeles' sales tax to 9.5%, one of the highest in the state, was opposed by 55% of the voters. In casting their ballots against the measure Tuesday, many voters said they did not trust the city to spend the new money wisely and blasted the measure as poorly conceived.
“The more money they have, the more they’ll waste,” architect Mark Finfer said Tuesday outside of his Brentwood polling place. “They don’t know what they’re doing."
In a TV ad promoting the measure, Police Chief Charlie Beck warned that without Measure A, public safety would be threatened. He also had warned that the city would probably reduce the size of the LAPD by 500 officers, with some layoffs.
Santana said it is highly unlikely officials will actually lay off police officers, but that they may stop hiring officers. The city loses approximately 300 officers a year to retirement and other departures, and so without hiring new officers, the size of the force would shrink.
Santana also said he wants to go back to the bargaining table on the city’s labor contracts. A raise for civilian employees, which was agreed to in 2007, is set to kick in later this year. “There needs to be a look at all our contracts again,” he said.
Jack Humphreville, who wrote the ballot argument against the tax hike, said the results showed that people "don't trust City Hall" and want it to do more to address rising employee pension costs, rein in personnel expenses and focus more on fixing streets and sidewalks. He predicted that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would not allow the size of the LAPD to be scaled back.
Both the top mayoral candidates, Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti, opposed the new tax. Villaraigosa and the city’s labor unions supported it.
--Jessica Garrison, David Zahniser and Martha Groves
Photo: A voter casts her ballot at the Encino Self Storage on Ventura Blvd. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times