I've served as chair of the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee since 2012. At that time the City was still reeling from the Great Recession, and our budget faced deficits of hundreds of millions of dollars. Former mayor Richard Riordan even opined in the Wall Street Journal that Los Angeles would need to file bankruptcy by 2014.
But we didn't. Instead, we cut expenses, found efficiencies, reduced the size of the workforce, initiated pension reforms, and worked with labor to manage compensation costs. As a result, we balanced the budget and eliminated almost all of the structural deficit, and at the same time we built up the strongest reserve the City ever had in its history.
Now the City faces a new budgetary challenge that is without precedent in our lifetime. The COVID-19 crisis has caused massive economic disruption, and with it a drastic decline in city revenues, even while the city's emergency response costs mount. In response, the Mayor has proposed a 2020-21 budget with unpaid furloughs for most city employees, a hiring freeze and other significant but essential cost reductions, and reliance on much of the reserve fund that we spent eight years building up.