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Mayor Villaraigosa Vetoes Councilman Cardenas' Use Of Discretionary Money

Antonio Villaraigosa dropped his mayoral hammer after a councilman attempted to transfer some discretionary funds to help pay for office salaries in the shadow of a budget crisis at City Hall: After asking the City Council last month to put its $40 million in fun money back into the city's reserve account, the mayor issued a letter later Monday stating he is vetoing the apparently defiant move by Valley representative Tony Cardenas. A question remains, however, whether Villaraigosa has the power to make such a move.

The veto came after the mayor warned the council in February that any moves to transfer discretionary funds to uses they weren't earmarked for would bring a veto. A few council members then spent the Street Furniture Reserve Fund money as intended -- for things such as "transit-related projects, sidewalk repair and other community beautification projects," according to Villaraigosa. But one councilman -- Cardenas -- stepped out of line and tried to use the money to feed his office's salary account, among other things.

The money "is not intended to augment elected officials' staff salary accounts," Villaraigosa wrote in a letter to council members. "And as I have repeatedly stated, given the severity of the financial crisis we face, uncommitted discretionary funds should be directed to the Reserve Fund."

Cardenas reportedly requested to move $278,000 from the Street Furniture Reserve Fund to help pay for office salaries and projects in his district outside the scope of the fund.

The mayor originally wanted the cash to be used to replenish the city's reserve fund, which will likely be drained as the council attempts to deal with a $212 million deficit and an additional $485 million in red ink due in July. Villaraigosa warned the council not to attempt to override his veto because it would send the wrong message to the public and to credit-rating agencies that have downgraded the city's standing on Wall Street.

" ... You should consider whether a prolonged, controversial and very public debate over a possible override of this veto is worth the Council's valuable time - particularly given the enormous amount of work before us as we attempt to balance this Fiscal Year's budget and prepare to close next Fiscal Year's $485 million deficit," Villaraigosa wrote. " ... You should carefully consider the message a Council override of this veto would send to the national credit rating agencies."

The Los Angeles Times reported that it's not clear whether Villaraigosa has the power to make such a veto, however, and that council legislative analyst legislative analysts Sharon Tso is researching the matter.


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