L.A. City Council’s budget committee recommends 1,000 more job cuts

The budget roller coaster at Los Angeles City Hall took another sharp turn Tuesday with the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee calling for the elimination of 1,000 jobs on top of the 761 targeted by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his proposed annual budget.

After a series of 5-2 votes, the committee sent the council a budget that imposes an array of cuts to parks, libraries, animal shelters and anti-gang programs, among other services.

The panel also removed $53 million in revenue that Villaraigosa expects to receive from plans to privatize the city’s parking assets — a move that increased the number of job cuts by 1,000 positions.

Councilman Jose Huizar voted against some of the reductions, including plans for closing 24 child-care centers and reducing library services by eight hours per week.

“We’re not investing in the future,” he said after the vote. “There’s no creative thinking.”

Councilman Greig Smith said the committee had to make “extremely tough and undesirable” choices to eradicate a $485-million shortfall. “It’s been a difficult budget. We knew there was nothing good to cheer about, quite frankly,” he said. “But we did what we had to do to present a legally balanced budget.”

Councilmembers Bernard C. Parks, Jan Perry, Bill Rosendahl and Smith voted in favor of the budget proposal, which heads to the full council Friday. Councilmen Huizar and Paul Koretz were opposed to many of the cuts.

Villaraigosa’s budget plan called for the city to lease 10 parking garages and borrow against future parking meter money. Under the plan, proceeds from those initiatives would replenish the city’s emergency reserve and send $53 million into the city’s general fund, which pays for basic services.

The committee, over the objections of Huizar and Koretz, decided not to include that money in the budget because parking garage agreements won’t be obtained until later this year.

Parks called the parking revenue “fake money.” But Villaraigosa’s deputy chief of staff, Matt Szabo, defended the decision to rely on the parking funds and criticized the committee’s decision.

“The mayor stands behind his revenue projections and is concerned that 1,000 unidentified layoffs could trigger severe and unintended service cuts,” Szabo said.

Over the last five months, the city’s elected officials have thrown out a wide array of numbers when discussing layoffs and job cuts — prompting some to question their credibility on fiscal matters. The council in February called for the elimination of 4,000 positions “by any means necessary.” But last month, Villaraigosa proposed 761 job cuts.

Because of labor contracts renegotiated last year, if any member of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions is laid off, the city would need to provide $32.3 million worth of raises to the union’s remaining members next year. Nevertheless, coalition leaders have been lobbying against layoffs.

After the vote, union leaders said the council should restore the parking money and tap $11 million that was diverted by the committee into a “budget stabilization” fund.

“The city should not slash services to set aside money into a ‘rainy day’ fund when it is pouring outside,” said coalition spokeswoman Barbara Maynard.