LATimes LANow Blog -- Phil Willon at L.A. City Hall
11:34 AM | July 23, 2009
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said this morning that the “gimmicks, accounting tricks and backdoor borrowing’’ in the proposed state budget deal would cost the city $260 million this year, while derailing state transit projects and putting thousands of criminals back on the streets.
The mayor vowed to join lawsuits being filed by local governments across California to block the Legislature from taking away billions of dollars in gas tax revenue, property tax dollars and redevelopment funds that were destined for counties and cities.
“This is a cynical money grab that will kneecap President Obama’s stimulus package and severely stint our economic recovery efforts,’’ Villaraigosa said at a morning news conference joined by leaders of the Los Angeles Police Department and the city police union.
First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said the proposal to reduce the state prison population by 27,000 inmates would have a definite “impact on our community.
“Its’ a shame that while we may save money in the short term, putting criminals back in our communities will cost us more in the long term, not only in money but in pain and suffering,’’ McDonnell said.
Police Chief William J. Bratton did not attend the conference because he is on vacation, said Mary Grady, an aide to the chief. “If he had been here, he would have gone to the press conference.”
If the state ends up releasing prisoners, McDonnell said, police chiefs are urging corrections officials to focus on inmates who are nonviolent, elderly or ill.
Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul Weber said any early-release program for inmates would be a “shortcut to disaster’’ for the city, and could impede the continuing drop in violent crime in Los Angeles.
“There’s a reason they are in state prison,’’ Weber said.
Villaraigosa, a former Assembly speaker, said that on Thursday night he spoke with legislative leaders and urged them to rethink the budget plan. At the very least, the mayor wants any money taken from local governments to be considered a “loan’’ to the state, to be repaid. That would at least allow cities such as Los Angeles to borrow money through the bond market to replace those lost funds. Villaraigosa said he was told that idea would be considered.
The mayor also criticized state lawmakers for going ahead with a vote on the budget cuts while postponing votes on a controversial provision to reduce the amount of time that thousands of inmates spend in prison. He said that was a clear ploy to provide political cover to Republicans so they would vote on the budget plan without looking soft on crime.
“The system is broken. Sacramento is in a meltdown,’’ Villaraigosa said. “Next year, we’re going to see more of the same. This is not going to get any better.’’