Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Budget committee to host hearing on LA's fiscal challenges

Los Angeles City Hall

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Los Angeles budget officials will host a public hearing Monday to evening preview the city's fiscal challenges.

The Los Angeles City Council’s budget committee will host a public hearing on the city’s financial challenges Monday evening as a prelude to the mayor’s budget for the next fiscal year.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and representatives from the police and fire departments will be on hand to answer questions. Unlike in previous years when the Budget and Finance Committee met throughout the city, this will be the only public hearing prior to the release of the budget. 

The city had projected a $210 million deficit for next year, though that figure might now be closer to $165 million due to better-than-expected returns on pension investments.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa must release his budget by April 20. Though he will set the spending priorities, the next mayor – who will be sworn in on the same day the fiscal year starts, July 1 – will implement the approved budget.

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Sequestration pain in California? Democrats and Republicans disagree

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), left, and Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) have differing views of the affect of budget cuts in their Congressional districts.

Just how bad are the across-the-board federal budget cuts of sequestration? It depends on who you ask.

It’s been two weeks since the mandatory cuts to defense and domestic spending were enacted. In a break during a recent session of the House of Representatives, we asked a quartet of lawmakers: Has life as we know it been affected in Congressional districts across Southern California?

"Uh, no," said Republican Congressmen Devin Nunes from Visalia. Fellow Republican Congressman John Campbell of Irvine said he's seen "nothing, really" to indicate the cuts are devastating his district.

You get a different answer from Democrat Alan Lowenthal, whose district includes the joint forces training base in Los Alamitos, which employs many civilians.  

"It’s the National Guard, it’s the Army Reserve and they’re devastated by the sequester," Lowenthal said.

He pointed out the civilian employees who run the airfields, including air controllers, are all being furloughed. The furloughs haven’t happened yet, but Lowenthal said the base knows they’re coming.

Fellow Democrat Linda Sanchez said the defense cuts hit her Cerritos district, too: "We’ve already been contacted by several businesses that do subcontracts for defense contractors and they’re not hiring, they’re talking about having to furlough employees."

Campbell said over the past year, when talk of sequestration was still just a threat, he also heard from defense contractors in Orange County, wondering whether their contracts would be renewed.

But Campbell said, at least one of the defense contractors who had expressed concern told him: “You guys got to cut spending, so if I wind up losing this contract, that’s okay. We’ll get by." 

Campbell did complain about the President’s decision to shut the White House to public tours, something the Congressman labeled an “abominable move.” He said one Orange County school group of nearly a hundred students and their teachers and parents raised money to come see the Capitol and the White House.

"They saw the Capitol," Campbell said, "they’re not going to be able to see the White House. And that’s really unfortunate and I think that was just frankly, a bonehead move on the part of the President."

Democrats say the domestic cuts are troublesome in other ways as well. Sanchez said she’s received calls from  city managers in her district worried about cuts to community development block grants, grants to hire police officers, funding for Section 8 housing and Headstart programs.

Lowenthal said schools are losing a “significant” amount of money. "When you represent large urban districts that really have multiple needs of students," he said, "this is what our districts rely upon and they’re the most vulnerable and going to be the most impacted by sequester." 

Nunes, who represents a more rural district, warned it’s just the beginning.

"Everybody knows we have to make cuts," Nunes said. And when you make cuts, there's "absolutely" going to be less government expenditures. "So we have to prioritize."

He added that "all this running around, screaming the sky’s falling" won't solve the larger problem, which he said is entitlements: Medicare and Medicaid.

The President told House Democrats last week to prepare to make concessions on entitlement reform – if Republicans agree to close tax loopholes.

Congresswoman Sanchez said cuts have to be balanced with additional revenue.

 "We’re saying when families are in distress, sometimes you have family members that get a second job or a part time job to bring in extra revenue," Sanchez said. She called that "a more balanced approach." 

But at least at this point, extra tax revenue is not a bridge Republicans are willing to cross.

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Former candidate Pleitez endorses Garcetti for LA mayor

Hayley Fox

Former L.A. mayor candidate Emanuel Pleitez endorsed Councilman Eric Garcetti today in front of a group of Garcetti's campaign volunteers.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013Update 3:40 p.m.: As many expected, Pleitez has endorsed councilman Eric Garcetti in his run for Los Angeles mayor.

The former candidate said Garcetti wants to "bring opportunity to every corner of the city."

Pleitez also praised the councilman for being "ready to tackle the biggest issues no matter how tough they are," and added that Garcetti also takes care of the basics, including good jobs and strong communities.

Garcetti described Pleitez as a "passionate campaigner" whose campaign he admired, and said the former mayor candidate was a "tremendous advocate for the people of Los Angeles."

"I think there's a real spark in this guy and his team," said Garcetti, complimenting Pleitez on his campaign's use of social media and ability to reach out to a wide range of voters.

"We're going to knock on doors," said the councilman. "We're not going to depend on the DWP unit to buy this race."

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2 California Democrat congresswomen going to Rome for papal ceremony

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) will attend the investiture of Pope Francis.

Catholics from around the world will flock to Rome for next week's investiture of the new Pope. Vice-President Joe Biden is going, and House Speaker John Boehner is sending an official Congressional delegation to represent the United States. The group includes a pair of California Congresswomen: Catholic Congresswomen Loretta Sanchez of Garden Grove and Anna Eshoo of San Mateo.

Speaker Boehner, who is Catholic, will not be going since the House is voting on the GOP budget next week. But he says the installation of Pope Francis, the first pontiff ever to hail from the Americas, "is a milestone in world history and an event of monumental significance to the millions of Americans who share in the Catholic faith.”

Boehner says the bipartisan group of members will join the Vice President in communicating the "prayers and warm regards of the American people to Pope Francis as he begins his papacy.”

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Emily's List backs Wendy Greuel for mayor of Los Angeles

Wendy Greuel Endorsement

Alice Walton/KPCC

Wendy Greuel accepts Emily's List's endorsement on the First Street steps of City Hall.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013

The campaign of Wendy Greuel, who could become the city of Los Angeles’ first female mayor, was endorsed Friday by Emily’s List — a national advocacy group dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women.

Speaking on the First Street steps of City Hall, Greuel accepted the endorsement by announcing that she would create a Council on Women and Girls within the Mayor’s Office. The council would have at least one paid staffer, Greuel said.

“At a time when there could be no women on our city council, we need to make sure that women have a voice in making the decisions that define Los Angeles,” Greuel said.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who finished fourth in last week's mayoral election, is the only woman on the Los Angeles City Council. When she leaves office in July, it's possible that the city council could be all-male. One woman, Ana Cubas, is in the May runoff for the Ninth District seat. Two women are the leading candidates for an open seat in the Sixth District, but that race could possibly not be settled until July.

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