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Now that the city of Los Angeles' proposed sales tax increase has failed, the mayoral candidates will be forced to put forward more specific budget plans to address a growing deficit.
The man behind the proposal, Council President Herb Wesson, acknowledged the failure will make things difficult.
“It makes our job that much more challenging,” Wesson said. “I have no doubt, no question that we will do whatever is necessary to put the city’s fiscal house in order. It’s a serious problem and we will address it that way.”
The challenge will fall on the shoulders of the city’s next mayor – either Eric Garcetti or Wendy Greuel. Each campaign has been vague on what the candidate would do to close the projected deficit that next year exceeds $100 million.
“We can’t continue just to cut and to tax our way forward,” Garcetti told KPCC’s Take Two on Wednesday.
“We need a mayor who’s proven that he can cut. I did that at a time we were projected to be bankrupt in five years ... and this year we were projected to have a $1.07 billion deficit.”
Speaking to her supporters Tuesday night, Greuel said she would bring together the business and labor communities to reach concessions. Contract negotiations with City Hall’s unions are set to take place next year. The contract with the city's largest union, SEIU 721, is up for renewal next year.
“We are going to have to make difficult choices with respect to our pension and health care systems," said Greuel, "and both business and labor want a mayor who they can trust to sit at the table with them and together bring about change which is fair and that works for everyone."
In the meantime, it will be up to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and city council’s budget leaders to cut spending enough to close next year's deficit.
"We're going to have to tighten our belt again," the mayor said Wednesday. "I've said that I'm willing to do it. This job isn't a popularity contest so we're going to make the tough calls and we will balance this budget."
The mayor also said, despite the gravity of the challenges, he would do what he could to prevent cuts to public safety agencies. The city’s budget stabilization fund will also have to be used, according to the city's Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.
For his part, council president Wesson put Measure A's failure in a somewhat positive light.
“The sky didn’t fall and it’s not the end of the world,” Wesson said.
The new fiscal year starts July 1.