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Hahn Wants to Cancel 3% Raises for 900

The mayor says revoking the increases due Jan. 1 for nonunion city workers would help close a potential budget gap next year.

October 30, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

To help the city solve its budget problems, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn on Wednesday proposed canceling 3% pay raises scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 for his staff, City Council aides, department heads and other city workers not represented by unions.

Hahn outlined his proposal to about 60 general managers of city departments during a meeting in which he warned of a potential $187-million budget shortfall next year unless spending is reduced.

If the City Council approves Hahn's request to cancel the cost-of-living raise for 900 employees, the city would save about $1 million, he said.

"I know that's going to be difficult for a lot of people to accept, but this just isn't the year for those kinds of automatic increases," Hahn told the general managers.

City Council President Alex Padilla, who attended the mayor's meeting with department heads, said he was willing to support repealing the raises for unrepresented employees. Other council members also signaled their willingness to cancel the raises, noting that the council had recently voted to ask city employee unions to reopen their contracts and discuss possible changes.

To spread the pain fairly, Councilman Dennis Zine said he would introduce a motion calling on the mayor and council members to give up any raises they might get. The pay for elected officials is tied to the salaries of Superior Court judges, who received 2.9% raises Oct. 1.

Los Angeles officials said Wednesday that they had not been officially notified of the judges' raises. For that reason, mayoral spokeswoman Julie Wong said, Hahn was unaware of the pay hike for elected officials when he spoke to department managers.

Hahn's proposal drew criticism from some council deputies, who said it was unfair, given that 40,000 union-represented workers will get raises, and that it would not go far toward solving the city's budget problems.

"It's not fair to single us out," said Francine Oschin, a veteran council deputy who works for Councilman Greig Smith. "When we have had pain in the past, we've all shared in it."

One high-level council staff member who asked not to be identified said singling out one group of employees would be resented.

"For what you get in saving $1 million, you will lose millions more in productivity because of angry council employees in the building," the deputy said.

Hahn recently asked general managers to come up with ideas for cutting their budgets next year by as much as 10%, and he reminded the department heads Wednesday that nonessential programs should be examined for potential reductions.

The mayor also announced that he had created a new Office of Management and Budget, which will combine policy analysts and budget experts.

Hahn said the goal is to ensure that the spending plan reflects the mayor's priorities as it moves through the City Council.

Last spring, the mayor and City Council battled over the budget. Ultimately, the council approved a spending plan that put off many of Hahn's initiatives, chief among them a plan to hire about 300 additional police officers.

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