Considering that the city of Los Angeles still hasn't solved its $222 million deficit, and that another $485 million in red ink is due July 1, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposed budget for the fiscal year starting in summer was a bit optimistic. Gone were the thousands of layoffs and closures of entire departments that were touted only last month. Where did the savings come from?
The City Council's budget and finance committee isn't sure either. It essentially rejected Villaraigosa's proposal, asking the city administrative officer to go back to the drawing board and come up with less-rosy figures. “It's a budget with pretend numbers,” Councilman Bernard Parks said.
Parks, for example, said millions in revenues that the mayor said would come from leasing out its parking garages to private entities and upgrading its parking meters comprised money that “isn't there.” “We shouldn't count it,” he said.
The committee wants the projected $150 million windfall in parking-related assets taken out of the plan. It also wants $73.5 million promised by the Department of Water and Power to be stricken from the mayor's proposal too. (That cash was supposed to help solve the current deficit, and it still hasn't come through).
Councilman Dennis Zine called Villaraigosa's budget a “fantasy.” “I know that medical marijuana is permissible with a prescription,” he said. “Hopefully no one was doing that [while drafting the proposed budget] because I find this really offensive that there's no substance.''
City administrative officer Miguel Santana said he would redraw the budget according to the committee's wishes but that it would result in more than the 750 layoffs called for under the original plan.
-With reporting from City News Service.