Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Mayor Villaraigosa seeks to renegotiate pay raises, health care costs (updated)

LA City Budget

Alice Walton/KPCC

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced his final spending proposal Monday morning. He wants the next mayor and Los Angeles City Council to renegotiate employee benefits. Doing so could result in a surplus by the end of the next mayor's first term.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s $7.7 billion Los Angeles city budget proposal calls for the renegotiation of pay increases for municipal employees scheduled to take effect next January.  

The 5.5 percent raises would go to 60 percent of the city’s civilian force. The mayor wants the City Council and his successor to renegotiate those raises and force city workers to pay 10 percent toward their health care benefits. Villaraigosa has pointed to a 2007 decision to increase workers’ paychecks by 25 percent as one of the contributing factors to LA’s budget problems.

“I feel compelled and I have felt compelled to make up for that mistake,” Villaraigosa said.

“What if I told you that we have some employees that don’t pay a penny for health care? The notion that we should pay 10 percent of health care is not a radical notion. It’s a sustainable notion.”

There was no immediate comment from the Coalition of L.A. City Unions. The mayoral campaigns of Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel were not immediately available to respond to the budget proposal.

Villaraigosa also proposed a freeze on raises – for civilians as well as cops and firefighters – for the three fiscal years following this budget proposal. Doing so could result in a $15 million surplus by the end of the next mayor’s first term.

“The proposed budget the mayor released today appears to be another step in the right direction, but any optimism should be tempered by the reality that we still have much more work to do,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. 

“Our economic recovery is still slow and fragile, and all of the gains we’ve made in reducing the structural deficit could be lost if the city falls back into its old habits.”

The city’s top budget official, Miguel Santana, echoed that sentiment.

“Never in human history has the economy grown forever," said Santana. "Eventually there are declines and the best budgeting assumes a decline at some point in your tenure.”

Unlike previous spending plans, the 2013-14 budget does not call for layoffs or furloughs. A projected $216 million deficit was eliminated in part because of pension savings and revenue from property, sales and hotel taxes.

The mayor’s budget proposal would maintain police hiring and hire 140 new firefighters. It calls for paving 800 miles of city streets and filling 350,000 potholes. It would also create the Office of Economic Development.

The Budget and Finance Committee will hold daily hearings on the budget beginning April 30. The hearings are scheduled to continue for two and a half weeks. 

Update: In a statement, Cheryl Parisi with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions says, "Our concern is that this budget does not go far enough to protect the people of Los Angeles now and in the future as our city continues to recover from the recession of the past few years. As the economy continues to improve, our priorities must be to restore, revitalize and renew this world-class city."

The coalition will continue to review the budget and offer analysis later in the week, Parisi says. 

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