While Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was in Washington, D.C. lobbying for federal transit money, some on the Los Angeles City Council this week were questioning his plan to implement massive Department of Water and Power rate hikes amid an economy that includes high unemployment in L.A.

“I think it's the wrong timing and also it's excessive,'' Councilman Bernard Parks said of the “carbon surcharge” plan that will go before the DWP's mayor-appointed board Thursday. The plan, which the Los Angeles Times reported this week would hike rates 8.8 to 28.4 percent, would seemingly raise DWP bills by much more than the $2.50 per month Villaraigosa recently touted.

The council can approve the board's expected rubber stamping of the hike or send it back with its recommendations. It appears that council members Jan Perry and Dennis Zine are also opposed to the increases.

Perry asked Tuesday why the city's richest department, whose employees are getting raises soon as part of a deal with the council that was approved late last year, needs the extra cash when it's running at a surplus that recently sent $147 million to the city's general fund.

She also said the DWP has been dragging its feet on cutting costs in the face of massive city deficits outside the department. She said the department had yet to report back to the council on what austerity measures it would take.

“The question of whether or not they've done absolutely everything that they're supposed to do to reduce their need for a surcharge to its absolute minimum has still yet to be demonstrated,'' Perry said.

The “carbon surcharge” plan aims to create jobs — new positions that could benefit the mayor's favored unions, critics have said — and move the city to 20 percent renewable energy sources by the end of the year. However, the Times pointed out that the money will also be used to cover current initiatives at the DWP.

-With reporting from Weekly wire services. Got news? Email us.

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