Finance committee rejects Villaraigosa's proposed budget

The Los Angeles City Council's Budget and Finance committee sent back Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, after members challenged its revenue estimates as being unrealistic.

"It's a budget with pretend numbers,'' said Councilman Bernard Parks, who chairs the committee.

Parks directed City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana to take out an estimated $150 million in projected revenue from parking assets, and a $73.5 million expected remittance from the Department of Water and Power, among other things.

Parks pointed out the proposal to lease the city's parking garages and upgrade the city's parking meters has not been vetted, and the DWP is withholding the money because of the debacle over a July 1 electricity rate hike.

"If money isn't there, we shouldn't count it,'' Parks said.

Councilman Dennis Zine said Villaraigosa's proposed budget "has so many holes in it, we're going to have to patch this from the bottom up.''

"Somehow, whoever put this together, (did so) with fantasy,'' Zine said. "I know that medical marijuana is permissible with a prescription. Hopefully no one was doing that (while drafting the proposed budget) because I find this really offensive that there's no substance.''

Santana stood by the revenue estimates, saying it reflected only a 1 percent increase from the current fiscal year.

Santana agreed to lower the numbers in accordance with the committee's wishes, but it would increase layoff projections.

Already, the proposed budget calls for laying off up to 750 employees, and forcing thousands more to take as many as 26 days of unpaid leave.

"There would have to be more cuts in city departments,'' Santana said. "It would be hard to find $53 million (which represents a portion of the projected revenue from parking assets) without adding to the number of positions being eliminated.''

Ben Ceja, deputy mayor for budget and finance, disputed Parks and Zine's contention that the spending plan relied on "soft money'' and "fuzzy estimates,'' noting the city has received 15 bids to lease the parking garages, and expected to have a contract within months.

Overall, Villaraigosa's proposed budget listed $6.7 billion in expenses, of which $2.4 billion would be paid with so-called "special funds'' like federal grants.

The remaining $4.34 billion would come out of the city's general fund, which is used for basic services like public safety, public works, parks and libraries.

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