We're talking 56 percent over the next four years, according to projections by budget officials. And yes, voters did pass a measure last year that trims pension benefits for police and firefighters, but it only applies to new hires. That does little to alleviate the current shortfall. Simply put, the city can't afford to pay what it owes current workers and retirees. From the LAT:
Pensions and retiree healthcare costs for sworn employees are projected to consume $789 million of the city's general fund budget in 2016, up from $506 million this year, according to figures prepared by budget analysts. Every dollar in the general fund that goes for retirement costs can't be used for other expenditures, such as library books, park hours and police salaries. The numbers were prepared for the city's labor negotiations committee, which is comprised of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and four council members. That panel met Tuesday to consider the mayor's plan for rolling back retirement benefits for newly hired civilian employees, such as librarians, landscapers and street repair workers.
The reforms being considered for L.A. are more modest than those approved overwhelmingly by San Jose voters in June. That measure requires current city workers and retirees to either contribute more to their pensions or accept lower benefits. Cops and firefighters immediately challenged the vote in court, maintaining that the measure violates court rulings that prohibit government pensions to be reduced without offering something comparable in return. It will be a while before there's any resolution; meantime, L.A. officials keep talking about pension reform that won't really fix the problem.