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Degree of L.A.'s fiscal problems splits mayoral candidates

City Hall outsiders talk of a city on the brink, and Perry has adopted their more urgent tone. Garcetti and Greuel deny any imminent threat to solvency.

January 18, 2013|By James Rainey, Los Angeles Times

Santana's office has projected that getting all workers to pay 10% of their health premiums would save the city $51 million a year.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation released in September found that the average American worker pays 27% of the cost for employer-sponsored healthcare, coming to $4,316 a year. Pushing Los Angeles employees to pay 10% of their premium would mean they would have to kick in at least $528 a year for their healthcare, city budget officials said.

But city employees can't be expected to see their low-cost care go up without a fight. "We have a track record of partnering with the city to help it through hard times," said Ian Thompson, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 721. "But we're skeptical when the CAO unilaterally proposes more cuts to city workers' benefits as the only solution."

Perry is the only one of the current elected officials to say clearly in recent public appearances that healthcare expenses will have to be on the table. Garcetti told a debate audience earlier this month that he's capable of making such tough calls, noting that some city workers have already been pushed to bear that expense.

"People are paying out of pocket for their healthcare premiums who were paying $0 before that," Garcetti said. "You think that was easy? You think it's easy to go to people and say we are going to take something away? But leadership is about telling people not what they want to hear but what they need to hear."

Garcetti said Thursday night in Sherman Oaks that the best path to balancing the budget in the future will be "to grow our economy," through a tax cut and other reforms, thereby building a larger tax base.

Similarly, Greuel said at a debate early in the month at Temple Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills that economic growth — through the expansion of business at the Port of Los Angeles and LAX and other initiatives — would fix the budget best. On pensions, her most specific proposal was for blocking pensions of employees who have committed a crime.

As she often does, Greuel concluded by saying her work as controller —where she claims to have "identified $160 million in potential savings" — proves she has the management chops to root out excess.


Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.

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