LAT opposes sales tax hike even if it leads to (more) 'short-term pain'

cityhall3.jpgThe paper's curious argument doesn't deny the need for additional tax revenues, but concludes that whoever winds up being mayor should be able to find his or her own solutions to the budget problems. In other words, the city's financial crisis can wait a while, even if the defeat of Proposition A leads to "short-term pain." The editorial will be good news for the mayoral candidates, all of whom oppose raising the sales tax from 9 percent to 9.5 percent - and mostly likely it will help kill the measure next month. What's worrisome isn't the debate over whether the sales tax is good public policy (it's really not), but rather whether the city's budget situation is all that serious (it really is). Councilman Eric Garcetti told LAT columnist Steve Lopez that the deficit numbers being put out by city officials were overblown. The day before, Matt Szabo, the former Villaraigosa deputy now running for City Council, said much the same thing. This, of course, is all about politics, not budgeting. The city does have serious fiscal problems - there is simply no way around that. Sure, the deficit might turn out to be smaller than $216 million next year; budgets are not static - they move around over the course of months, even weeks. A healthy city can adjust to small ups and downs. But L.A. is not so healthy and the numbers are no so small. Let's say that the new mayor and council can throw on enough Band-Aids on the patient to handle 2013-2014. What about 2014-2015 ($327 million deficit projection) and 2015-2016 ($297 million) and 2016-2017 ($265 million)? Do these shortfalls just magically disappear? How do you deal with the rising cost of pension and health care when many of the solutions center on benefit reductions for future workers? And last but not least, what about the city services that have been lost or severely curtailed because of cuts already taken? Do those ever come back? These are the questions that need answers - and, friends, I wouldn't hold my breath.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
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Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent Campaign 2013 stories:
Shallman and Carrick on 'Which Way, LA?' tonight
Greuel consultant blames the LA Times
Morning Buzz: Friday 5.24.13
Campaign 2013 photo gallery by Gary Leonard
Election post-mortem in quotes (some very pointed)

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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