Coverage of L.A. ‘pothole tax’ never mentions why budget is bare

Coverage of L.A. ‘pothole tax’ never mentions why budget is bare

dd-posterThe city of Los Angeles’ finances are in terrible shape. The city’s economy is sluggish and revenue is stagnant. Meanwhile, retirement benefits for retired city workers — especially police and firefighters — eat up ever more of the budget.

“As of June 30, 2013, the City’s two pension funds, the $17 billion Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System and the $20 billion Fire and Police Pension Plans, were only 74% funded. As a result, over half of this year’s pension contribution of $950 million (19% of the budget) will help to amortize a small portion of this unfunded pension liability.

“Over the next three years, the City’s pension contributions will increase by $250 million (over 25%) to $1.2 billion, representing 23% of the City’s budget.  This is after a 150%, $650 million increase during the Villaraigosa era, fueled primarily by a four time, $475 million increase in the contributions to the Fire and Police Pension Plans.”

That’s from a City Watch LA report.

So how is the city dealing with this mess? With a transparent ploy. Two weeks ago, almost certainly at the behest of new Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller recommended that the City Council put a half-cent sales tax hike on the November ballot to “pay for repairs of the worst streets and sidewalks.” This would raise $4.5 billion over 15 years.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is about getting new revenue into L.A. City Hall by any means possible. This is a city that can’t pay its bills.

It’s all about roads and sidewalks — not pensions. Huh?

But insanely enough, Los Angeles Daily News City Hall reporter Dakota Smith and her editors continue to buy the spin that this is about potholes and not pensions.

“A proposal to raise Los Angeles’ sales tax to pay for road and sidewalk repairs received its first public hearing Wednesday night, as city officials gingerly laid out a $4.5 billion plan before a gathering of neighborhood leaders.

“About 50 people attended a City Hall hearing on the measure, which would raise the L.A.’s sales tax to 9.5 percent if endorsed by the City Council and approved by voters in November.

“Armed with a PowerPoint display, the city detailed why federal dollars are unavailable to help fix L.A.’s worst streets and sidewalks and how the additional funds raised would be used. At least 8,700 lane miles of street would be repaired under the proposal, officials said.”

If naivete were a crime, the reporters and editors on the L.A. Daily News politics team would be facing life imprisonment. Dumb de dumb dumb.

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