LA budget layoffs up for vote today

L.A. city workers fill city council chambers to lobby for early retirement program instead of layoffs and furloughs.
L.A. city workers fill city council chambers to lobby for early retirement program instead of layoffs and furloughs.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

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The Los Angeles City Council on Friday is expected to decide whether to go through with layoffs and mandatory unpaid furlough days to address a $400 million budget shortfall. Labor union leaders argue the city should enact an early retirement plan instead. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports.

Frank Stoltze:City attorneys, librarians, sanitation workers, and mechanics paraded before the city council this week asking members to approve an early retirement program. Fifty-five-year-old Deborah Young is a gardener at Algin Sutton Park.

Deborah Young: I come from the South Central District. I work the projects. We need our jobs. We need the people out there for the community, for the public. If you lose this, you’re losing something.

Stoltze: Sixty-two-year-old Judy West works at the Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks Recreation Center.

Judy West: We teach the children, we inspire the children, and we especially keep the children off the streets and out of trouble. If you do lay our employees off, you’ll have to pay a lot more for extra police to clean up the mess.

Stoltze: L.A. workers face a report from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who wrote that an early retirement program designed to save the city money wouldn’t. Lower than expected tax revenues have contributed to a $400 million deficit. Santana said forcing most city workers to take every other Friday off and laying off more than 900 workers are the fastest ways to address what he called a rapidly deteriorating financial picture.

Miguel Santana: As horrible as furloughs are, what they do provide is they provide immediate relief to our fiscal problem. And layoffs would go a long way to mitigate the problem not just for this year but for next year as well when the problem is expected to be as bad if not worse.

Stoltze: City council members, many of whom got elected with the help of labor unions, are trying to figure out how to preserve the early retirement program. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who helped negotiate it, now says he’ll veto it. He’s endorsed the idea of furloughs and even layoffs, except at the police and fire departments. But he says the unions that represent cops and firefighters will have to give up more.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: If the police and fire unions accept a cut this year, we can avoid furloughs, we can avoid layoffs. They won’t even take a 2 percent cut. That’s outrageous, given this economic situation. And yet they’re still engaging in a demagoguery that’s unacceptable.

Stoltze: Paul Weber heads the union that represents police officers.

Paul Weber: We’ve offered multiple recommendations, suggestions, plans. Each one of them has been rejected with little or no input other than that they are looking for more cost savings. Every time: we need more, we need more, we need more. And that’s no way to negotiate.

Stoltze: City finance officials say L.A. is spending a million more dollars a day than it’s taking in, and bond rating agencies that already have the city on a negative watch list want definitive action to reduce spending or raise revenues soon.