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Why L.A. Could go Bankrupt (or Make More Massive Cuts)

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Journalist Mark Lacter this month in Los Angeles Magazine and at his L.A. Biz Observed blog nicely explains why the city of Los Angeles is still facing major budget problems. I say "still" because if you follow the news, it may seem like the crisis mode we were in earlier this year is over since the city's budget was passed. Yes, there were cuts made here and there, but the real financial problems have yet to hit the city hard. When they do, it will likely be when L.A. has a new mayor.As Lacter says, pensions are key to the problem.

Money and common sense have never been the best companions. Consider the City of Los Angeles, which faces horrific financial woes largely because nobody was paying attention to a problem that in hindsight looks pretty obvious. As it now stands, a typical L.A. police officer or firefighter can retire at 55 and receive up to 90 percent of the salary made in the last year of employment. For life. Plus free health care, also for life. So if you put in 30 years on the job and live an additional 30, the city is essentially bankrolling almost two full salaries, pre- and postretirement. Other city employees enjoy nearly the same benefits.

Earlier this week, a city commission on revenue efficiency released their blueprint for change. What they found is that the city is owed more than a half billion dollars, something it probably won't see 100% of. But if the plan is successful, the city could see at least one hundred million more in revenue a year. Solutions such as these need to be sought every day -- and should have been in the past -- but at the end of the day, expect even more cuts to city services and programs over the next few years.

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