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Mickey Kantor Looking To Kick-Start Conversation on L.A.'s $242 Million Budget Deficit

Yup, still broke
Yup, still broke
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We haven't heard much lately from the L.A. 2020 Commission, the blue-ribbon panel assembled last spring to take a long look at the city's troubled finances. The group, led by former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, was initially expected to offer a report in September.

That deadline has been pushed back. "We don't have staff," Kantor says. "There have been some fits and starts in the writing of the document."

But Kantor now says that he expects to issue a report in two weeks. The report should kick-start a conversation about L.A.'s budget. While state government is talking about how to spend a surplus, L.A. -- yet again -- is projected to have a $242 million deficit next year.

Much of that shortfall is due to the fact that most civilian city workers will get a 5.5 percent raise on Jan. 1 -- a parting gift from former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. (That's not to absolve new Mayor Eric Garcetti, who approved the lucrative union contract when he was City Council president.)

"We're deeply concerned about the fiscal situation in L.A.," Kantor said. "We're not Detroit, however L.A. has its challenges and they're serious."

Kantor said the group would address a range of fiscal issues, including pensions and other aspects of employee compensation. But the 13-member panel -- which includes representatives from business and labor -- may also venture into other areas, including city service delivery, traffic and education policy.

The first report will lay out the problems the city faces. Sometime later, the commission will issue another report that will recommend solutions.

Council President Herb Wesson established the commission last March, in the wake of the defeat of a sales tax increase. The commission has operated independently since then, though the full group has not gathered since June.

Garcetti campaigned on his own set of proposals to close the city's deficit, including increasing the amount that employees pay into their health care plans. Garcetti is due to propose a budget in April. 

He is under no obligation to heed the commission's advice, though he has said he welcomes its proposals.

"We are looking forward to their ideas," said Yusef Robb, Garcetti's spokesman.

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