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Los Angeles mayor: 'Painful' cuts, layoffs needed to balance budget

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calls for major layoffs, service cuts
  • City struggling with $485 million budget shortfall
  • Mayor announces cutbacks in library hours, park programs; police force won't be affected

(CNN) -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is proposing "painful" layoffs and service cuts to close a $485 million budget deficit as the city struggles to cope with an economy beat down by a recession.

"These layoffs and service cuts I have proposed will be severe and they will be painful," Villaraigosa said in Tuesday's State of the City address. "But let me be first to say, we can we do better. We can avoid many of these cuts and we can find better ways of protecting our fiscal health and balancing our budget."

The budget proposal for the 2010-2011 fiscal year calls for "initiating layoffs of more than 800 employees" and reduces the number of full-time employees by some 3,300 when compared to year-ago levels.

Many positions on the city's payroll have gone unfilled as employees have retired, quit or left their jobs for various reasons.

"We must all share in the sacrifice to stop the cuts in services and prevent further layoffs," the mayor said. "We must all be willing to take cuts in our pay, increase our pension contribution, and contribute more to our health care plans."

California's economy has been especially hard-hit by the economic downturn. While the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 9.7 percent in March, the Golden State checked in at 12.6 percent. Coupled with collapse in the state's real estate market, tax receipts are down significantly.

"This is not a budget that reflects why I ran for office," Villaraigosa said as he announced proposed cuts in city services.

"While we opened new libraries this year, we are now asking our branch libraries to reduce their service from six days a week to five," the mayor said. "While we are keeping pools open this summer, we are asking many parks to reduce the programs they offer. And while we are paving streets at a faster pace, we are slowing down at repairing potholes, paving alleys and trimming trees."

One area that would be left unscathed in the new budget is the city's police force. The number of officers would be left at just under 10,000, near an all-time high.