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Mayor against police, fire cuts to city budget

February 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The Los Angeles City Council may soon be ordering a new round of budget-slashing measures. The cuts could spread to the police and fire departments, and beyond.Los Angeles Police Department officers are expected to be included as targets of budget cuts when the Los Angeles City Council meets Wednesday. So are firefighters if the city's chief administrative officer follows orders as he revises a proposed new budget.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was booed as he spoke to representatives of some of the city's unions facing up to 1,500 layoffs. They met at the L.A. Convention Center as the city faces a $208 million deficit.

Villaraigosa strongly disagrees with new proposals to include police and fire departments in the budget pain.

"Before we're even going to consider public-safety cuts we've got to acknowledge the fact that what we've got to do is support our core functions, and our core functions are police and fire," said Villaraigosa.

The city's chief administrative officer, Miguel Santana, has been told to come back with new recommendations which include police and fire. He already proposed that fire department eliminate its third training class.

The head of the Los Angeles firefighters union says it's going to hurt.

"About 120 firefighters retiring or going off on disability pension a year that the fire department will shrink by 120 this year. Yeah, that's significant," said Pat McOsker.

The mayor says the employees have to be willing to make more sacrifices. For instance: increasing pension contributions, and taking pay cuts along with more furloughs.

Some of the unions have already made concessions regarding pay raises and furloughs.

"We gave them the tools. It's time for city leadership to take those tools and use them," said Simboa Wright, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721 member.

"We've agreed to forgo a couple of pay raises. We've also agreed to take three and a half hours biweekly in furloughs that we're not getting paid for," said Art Sweatman, SEIU Local 721 member.

Every day of delay in balancing the budget costs the city nearly $340,000, the equivalent of four employees per year.

Wednesday the City Council will vote on the most recent proposal to balance the budget.