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Wesson warns of up to 1,400 city layoffs if tax hike fails

November 16, 2012 |  3:20 pm

Los Angeles Council President Herb Wesson -- Francinr Orr--LA Times

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson warned Friday that a failure to win passage of a half-cent sales tax hike would result in the layoffs of up to 1,400 city employees next year.

Hours after one of the city’s largest employee unions signaled it may oppose the tax hike, Wesson released a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigsoa warning of new layoffs, including 500 in the Police Department, if the March 5 ballot measure is not successful. Last week, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said 200 police officers could be laid off without the tax hike. Another 300 positions could disappear through attrition -- failing to hire replacements for those who resign or retire, the chief said.

Villaraigosa has called on the council to reaffirm its support for staffing at the Police Department, which has had 9,963 rank-and-file officers in recent years. But Wesson warned that the council’s commitment would probably evaporate without the tax hike, which is expected to generate $215 million

“While the City Council is committed to maintaining police hiring through the current fiscal year, it must be noted that the budget of the police department cannot be sustained without new revenue sources to fill the projected budget gaps over the next three years,” Wesson wrote.

Wesson sent his letter after the political arm of the Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents 10,000 city employees, announced that it was recommending that the union oppose the tax hike. SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover said he shared that view.

The sales tax hike has drawn opposition from four mayoral candidates--City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, City Controller Wendy Greuel, and former federal prosecutor Kevin James. Also against it is the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., whose president argued that the city should look for alternatives to the sales tax hike.

If SEIU Local 721 ultimately campaigns against the tax, the proposal will face a rocky future, association President Stuart Waldman said. "If you've got labor and business on the same page, it's going to be an uphill battle to pass," he said.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times