According to Paul Krekorian, the chairman of the City Council’s finance and budget committee, “The budget reflects our values.”
As the city careens towards insolvency, City Hall refuses to answer the question: “How are we going to balance the budget, fix our roads, and fund the city’s pension plans?”
Rather, to eliminate next year’s projected deficit of $216 million, the mayor is proposing to slash the civilian work force by 10 percent and to unload our parking facilities at fire sale prices.
Alternatively, with very little discussion, the City Council has placed on the ballot a measure to permanently increase our sales tax to 9.5 percent.
Projected $1.1 billion deficit
But there is no reform; over the next four years, labor costs will explode by almost $800 million, including $300 million next year,
resulting in a staggering cumulative deficit of $1.1 billion.
This four-year budget deficit is understated by at least $1 billion because it does not include adequate funding for our streets or pension plans.
The city claims to have made heroic changes in the way it operates. But once again, the city is blowing smoke in our face.
The mayor’s penny ante attempt at pension reform saves only $15 million in 2017, about one percent of the projected $1.3 billion pension contribution.
The city has also scaled back its work force by 5,000 positions, but at a cost of billions of dollars over the next 15 years. City employees are also contributing an additional four percent of their compensation to the city’s pension plans, but this has been more than offset by a 35 percent increase in wages.
Liabilities not funded
Yet, there has been no effort to eliminate the $10 billion unfunded pension liability or fund the $10 billion that is needed to fix our streets and the rest of our infrastructure.
We must demand that the City Council reform its ways by placing on the ballot a charter amendment that requires the city to “live within its means” by balancing the budget, and over the next 10 years, repair our roads (and the rest of our infrastructure) and fund our pension plans.
We will have the opportunity to express our fiscal frustrations in the March election by rejecting the permanent half cent increase in our sales tax to 9.5 percent.
And in May, Angelenos may have the opportunity to vote for pension reform by approving Mayor Riordan’s plan that results in substantial savings for the city and the DWP ratepayers.
Paul Krekorian was right in saying that “the budget reflects our values.” But these values of fiscal responsibility and dumping $25 to $30 billion of debt on the next generations of Angelenos are not ones that our parents taught us.
Jack Humphreville is on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, chair of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a budget advocate.