Villaraigosa Threatens Layoffs And Furloughs (Los Angeles) – With Los Angeles City Council members unable to reach agreement on where to make new budget cuts, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday threatened to order a new round of furloughs and employee layoffs. The council’s Budget and Finance Committee was unable to agree on a series of proposals to make up for a potential loss of $53 million in revenue because of the city’s inability to put together a lease-sale deal for its parking garages. The city is trying to cope with a $62million shortfall in this year’s budget and prepare for another $348 million deficit next year. It will bring to more than $1 billion the amount cut from the budget in the past four years…. As the council reviewed the various options to reduce budgets of individual departments, Councilman Bill Rosendahl asked for a report on how many city workers are paid more than $200,000 a year. He also asked if those making more than that amount would agree to a voluntary pay cut. City Council members are paid $178,000 a year.
Major, Bizarre Fish Die-Off Along Lakefront – A bizarre scene is evolving on the Chicago lakefront, with Canada geese and mallard ducks gulping down dead or dying gizzard shad. A major die-off of what appears to be the 2010 class is happening in Chicago harbors. Thousands, perhaps far more than that, of dead gizzard shad in the 3- to 5-inch range are frozen in the ice of Chicago harbors or floating around in open patches of water. Canada geese and mallards normally don’t eat fish, but, Greenberg said, “They are opportunistic.”
Plant will shut after $58m in state aid – Evergreen Solar Inc. will eliminate 800 jobs in Massachusetts and shut its new factory at the former military base in Devens, just two years after it opened the massive facility to great fanfare and with about $58 million in taxpayer subsidies.The company announced yesterday that it will close the plant by the end of March, calling itself a victim of weak demand and competition from cheaper suppliers in China, where the government provides solar companies with generous subsidies.
Report details Oakland Police Department attrition – The Oakland Police Department will confront an old problem in the New Year: how to staff an under-strength department in a city with a $32 million budget deficit. As of December 2010, OPD had 656 officers, 54 fewer than the authorized 723 officers, and well under the thousand officers Police Chief Anthony Batts says he needs to properly police Oakland. That number is expected to shrink even further following the City Council’s statement that the city only has money to pay for 637 officers in 2011.
Paterson mayor proposes laying off 150 cops to close budget gap – Mayor Jeffery Jones proposes laying off 150 police officers, demoting 51 others and shaving three hours off the work week in an attempt to close an unprecedented $54 million deficit. “This is not a smoke-and-mirrors situation where we tell you the sky is falling. It has fallen,” Jones said at a special meeting of the City Council on Tuesday evening. Residents would face a rise of nearly 50 percent in the municipal tax rate if no cuts are made, leading to much public angst over the city’s proposed $251 million spending package
Illinois lawmakers pass massive tax hikes – Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday approved major personal and corporate income tax hikes to bring the state’s budget back from the financial abyss. The state is facing a $13 billion budget deficit that must be resolved by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. This includes $6 billion in unpaid bills to social service agencies, schools, contractors and others. In addition, the state’s pension plan is severely underfunded. To address these shortfalls, the Illinois House and Senate approved:
- Temporarily raising the personal income tax rate to 5%, from 3%.
- Temporarily hiking corporate income taxes to 7%, from 4.8%.
- Imposing a moratorium on new programs with spending growth capped at 2% per year, with the exception of increased school aid of more than $700 million.
Illinois Senate Clears the Way to Sell $3.7 Billion in Debt for Pensions – The Illinois Senate, facing the state’s worst fiscal crisis, cleared the way for the state to borrow $3.7 billion for this fiscal year’s payment into underfunded employee pensions. The bond measure was approved 42-16 in the final hours of the legislative session, moments after the Senate gave final approval to a 67 percent increase in the income-tax rate. Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has said he will sign the bill, which passed the state House of Representatives in May. Illinois had $64 billion in pension assets to pay estimated liabilities of $126.4 billion to 723,000 retirees and beneficiaries, according to bond documents in June.
Chicago’s Downgraded Bond Rating Means Trouble for O’Hare Modernization – Chicago’s debt problem is bringing down the lofty modernization plans for O’Hare. Moody’s Investors Service issued a warning, saying Chicago’s Aviation Deptartment took too big of a risk on paying its bills. The city’s bond rating has been downgraded. The airlines, and therefore customers, could get stuck paying for higher borrowing costs as a result. Moody’s said the city’s decision to postpone payment of interest and principal on construction bonds until 2018 will result in larger payments in the future.
Restaurants Could Be Food Stamp Option For Some – A slice of the county’s food stamp recipients soon may be able to redeem their benefits at area restaurants should a proposal supported by San Diego County Supervisors Bill Horn and Ron Roberts and initiated by a local restaurant association gain favor Tuesday. The number of people receiving food stamps countywide has spiked by 79 percent in two years to 210,000, according November 2010 figures provided by the county. Advocates for the poor have worked closely with the county to reform the program, which has been derided as inaccessible and inefficient.
Thousands of families to lose welfare benefits in Los Angeles — A dramatic budget cut by California Governor Jerry Brown would end welfare benefits for 37,000 families in Los Angeles County, authorities said Tuesday. Brown announced a balanced state budget on Monday that slashes state spending by 12.5 billion U.S. dollars and moves forward his plan to realign some government programs, giving cities and counties decision-making authority over certain services and programs. The slash, designed to address California’s 28-billion-dollar budget deficit, includes a proposed 1.5-billion-dollar reduction to CalWORKS, the state’s welfare-to-work program. As a result, the program will cut funding by 450 million dollars to Los Angeles County and take away benefits for 37,000 county families, according to the county’s CEO, William Fujioka.
Bobb’s ‘draconian’ plan: Shut half of DPS schools – The Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager has submitted a sweeping plan that would close half of the district’s existing schools, increase high school class sizes to 62 and consolidate administration under the city or the countywide education agency. Robert Bobb’s plan to wipe out a $327 million deficit, submitted to the Michigan Department of Education on Monday, also calls for layoffs soon — the elimination of at least 249 positions this school year on the heels of a teacher shortage. The new plan would put DPS in the black by 2014 and assumes the district will lose another 20,000 students by 2013 – down to 58,570 from about 175,000 in 1999.
Portugal Debt Woes Grow As Economy Now Seen Shrinking In 2011 – Portugal’s prime minister Jose Socrates insists his country doesn’t need a bailout and is cutting its debt faster than promised. However, his comments fall on deaf ears as the country’s central bank now expects the country to fall back into recession next year. In its latest quarterly update, the Banco de Portugal says it thinks the economy will shrink 1.3% in 2011 as the far-reaching spending cuts announced by the government begin to take their toll. In the previous bulletin it said the economy would not grow this year.
Home price drops exceed Great Depression: Zillow (Reuters) – Home prices fell for the 53rd consecutive month in November, taking the decline past that of the Great Depression for the first time in the prolonged housing slump, according to Zillow. Home prices have fallen 26 percent since their peak in 2006, exceeding the 25.9 percent drop registered in the five years between 1928 and 1933, the housing data company said in a report on Monday. Prices fell 0.8 percent over the month. It is a dubious milestone for the U.S. housing market which has failed to gain much traction despite a host of government programs to reduce delinquencies and encourage demand with temporary tax credits and lower interest rates.