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Billboard Tax and Pension Reform Could be on March Ballot

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Photo by fredcamino via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr

Photo by fredcamino via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
L.A. has suffered a blow this year in regards to the budget. Job cuts, furloughs, impacted city services and more have had a ripple effect on the pubic (library hours shortened by two days, for one). To avoid more of this in the future, city officials are acting now to save the budget, which includes going to the voters at the March 8th municipal election. November 3rd is the deadline to place items on that ballot, so this week the politicians are at work.

Today Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Controller Wendy Greuel announced support for a proposed measure that would increase the amount a newly hired sworn cop or firefighter contributes to their pension -- from 9% to 11% -- and decrease some of the pension amounts after retirement: 40% of their salary instead of 50% after 20 years of service and 55% instead of 65% after 25 years. However, for those who serve at least 33 years, they would still earn 90% of their salary, as approved by voters in 2001.

The "plan is designed to save $173 million over 30 years for every 1,000 new police officers and firefighters hired," noted the LA Times. "Even in a recession, the city is hiring roughly 300 new offers each year, [City Administrator Miguel] Santana said last week."

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Locally and statewide, the normally dry subject of pensions has taken center stage, even in the race for Governor. That's because pensions are bleeding government budgets. In Los Angeles, it is estimated that pensions will make up one-third of its general fund, which is the source of funding for core city services like police, fire, streets and parks. The more pension costs skyrocket, the fewer options a city has to keep it running.

Taxing billboards and supergraphics could also be on the March ballot for voters to decide on. A proposal making its way through city council committees this week could end up taxing the advertisements by 12%, raising about $24 million for the city annually. The language is based on a similar proposal that was passed in Philadelphia in 2005. It was challenged in court, but ultimately stayed law.

While this is could be a good idea from a financial standpoint, some like Dennis Hathaway at Ban Billboard Blight pose a good question. Would the City Council be more inclined to approve new billboards and supergraphics and lax restrictions because it would mean more revenues to pay for services? If that's the case, would sign companies back the tax?

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