My proposed budget makes it abundantly clear that the City will carry out the actions necessary to become fiscally stable. Specifically, this budget addresses the structural deficit that has hampered the City for too long and proposes permanent solutions, including a 9% reduction in full-time positions. -- L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
You know things are bad when one of the cost-saving measures trotted out in the mayor's new budget is the email system. It's supposed to save a whopping $6.5 million over five years, which, sad to say, won't do much to narrow next year's $485 million deficit - not to mention even larger numbers in the years to come. The early reviews on Villaraigosa's budget and State of the City address weren't very good, and it's not hard to see why. The budget plan has a kind of garage sale theme. Let's get rid of this and that, generate enough cash to keep everybody paid for a while, and hope that tax revenues will begin to pick up in another six or 12 months. Ten or 20 years ago such deferral might have worked. But not now - the city is too forgone.
Perhaps the most glaring omission in yesterday's budget announcement is the out-of-control pension obligations. A couple of weeks ago, former Mayor Riordan said the situation was so dire that the city might consider filing for bankruptcy. "I've suggested it since 2005," Riordan told Rick Orlov of the Daily News. "The city, the way it is going, is unsustainable. If they don't do it this year, they are going to have to do it in the next four or five years." When I brought up the issue last week with Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner, he more or less shrugged it off, noting that other municipalities were in the same boat. That's true, but that's like saying all the kids at school are bad during class. It's not an answer. He never really said how the city will deal with those massive pension numbers. I'm not sure anyone at City Hall, including the mayor, has much of an answer.