The L.A. Times’ Friday report …
Los Angeles’ top budget official raised the specter of bankruptcy on Friday in a sweeping report in which he called for new taxes, major pension reform and possibly layoffs.
Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said rising employee costs combined with flat-lining revenues have left the city in a precarious position. Even after reducing its workforce by 4,900 positions in recent years, the city faces a $222-million budget shortfall, he said, a number that is expected to rise to $427 million by 2014-15.
“We’re always in crisis mode; we’re always trying to close that shortfall,” Santana said in an interview. Without cuts to the city’s expenditures and gains in its revenue stream, he said, “we’re facing the complete devastation of city services, including public safety.”
… essentially confirms every warning that I’ve written over the past decade about local governments in California facing ruin because of their control by public employee unions or by bureaucrats whose own pockets are lined by going along with what unions want.
The main guy over the past 10 years leading the defense of the status quo has been Steve Maviglio, both as consigliere/spokesman for Assembly speakers and more recently as a gun for hire for public employee unions. Where is Steve now? What do the Californians for Retirement Security have to say for themselves?
We can expect the usual palaver about how rollbacks have been negotiated and public employee unions are acting in good faith. But we will hear no explanation that makes the slightest bit of sense about why Maviglio and the powerful forces he represents have blocked pension reform in the Legislature.
Their main argument — that the pension crisis isn’t that severe for state government — is mendacious, but not beyond the pale. But here’s what is beyond the pale: The pension crisis is ENORMOUS at the local level. Yet the Maviglians are blocking all pension reform because either a) they fear the changes would be uniform for local and state governments, and state employees don’t want to make that many concessions; or b) they don’t want to set a precedent of big concessions, even if they only apply to local governments for now.
And so Los Angeles, Stockton, San Jose and so many other California cities will go down the drain. The city that has managed to confront its pension crisis head-on with a ballot measure that revolutionizes retirement benefit policies? Well, the Maviglians are attempting to sandbag that city with the assistance of the union tools running the state Public Employment Relations Board. PERB is is trying to subvert San Diego’s ballot measure by any means possible.
This is just far more evidence of the stupidity and futility of the argument that California Republican lawmakers can compromise their way to either political or policy success in Sacramento. The other side has no interest in compromise and is willing to let Los Angeles slide into anarchy, if necessary, to protect retirement benefits for state workers.
Why do Sacramento media types have so much more interest in what they perceive as Republican dysfunction than with how Democrats function? Our state is in a depraved place because of public employee union power, but the Peter Schrags and George Skeltons of the world still insist that Golden State problem No. 1 isn’t this fact and how it warps policy debates.
Instead, they pretend that the state’s biggest problem is that it’s not easy to raise taxes — not that a state with among the nation’s very highest income, sales and gasoline taxes can’t make ends meet. Sheesh.