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Mayor Karen Bass releases city budget proposal, focuses on homelessness, policing

Karen Bass speaks at an event during the 2022 midterm elections. Bass has since released her budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

By Gabby Jamall

May 22, 2024 6:44 p.m.

This post was updated May 22 at 6:57 p.m.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass released her city budget proposal April 22 for the upcoming 2024-2025 fiscal year, which allocates $12.8 billion to various city services such as homelessness reduction programs and policing.

The proposed budget will fund programs such as Bass’ Inside Safe program, which aims to address the unhoused crisis, fund the LAPD, promote higher wages for city employees and encourage investments to promote a more sustainable city. This budget is a 2.3% decrease from the previous year’s $13.1 billion budget and will go into effect July 1 if approved by city council.

Bass’s budget addresses the high cost of living in LA amid ongoing economic instability, said Bass’ press secretary Clara Karger in an emailed statement.

“The nation, state and city are facing economic uncertainty driven by broad economic trends and the coming national election,” Karger said in the emailed statement. “Another challenge facing Angelenos is the high cost of living, especially housing, that is impacting working people.”

Bass’ proposal follows $297 million in overspending during the 2023-2024 fiscal year, according to a report by the LA City Controller’s office. This deficit largely comes from the economy flattening, high inflation rates and pressure from labor unions to increase wages, said Rick Cole, chief deputy of the controller’s office.

He added that the controller’s office voiced these potential issues prior to the 2023-2024 fiscal year, but the concerns they raised were not addressed when making last year’s budget.

“They were not hidden from sight,” he said. “They were obvious, but they were ignored.”

The budget proposal must be balanced, where proposed expenses cannot exceed the amount of money the city currently has, said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the LA Initiative at the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“Neither she (Bass) nor the city council can propose a budget that spends more money than it has,” he said. “Otherwise they risk a fiscal calamity.”

While the budget continues to allocate money toward Bass’ Inside Safe Program, it is $65 million less than the program — which helped house more than 21,000 Angelenos during Bass’ first year in office — was allocated last year.

This decrease is partially due to a rollback on Proposition HHH, a bond measure passed in 2016 that supports the construction of supportive housing units and temporary shelters, Karger said in the emailed statement.

However, Cole said the change should not be thought of as a cut but rather a reevaluation of the program’s funding so that it can be more cost-effective in the upcoming year.

The budget also proposes the elimination of more than 2,000 vacant city positions in areas such as sanitation and construction.

Karger said in the emailed statement that the elimination of these positions aims to prioritize livable wages for workers over preserving positions that have been empty for years.

“We are choosing to pay City workers a wage they deserve rather than prioritizing empty desks,” Karger said in the statement. “This budget will continue to hire for critical positions including sanitation workers, street sweepers, police officers, firefighters and others. Core services will continue to be delivered.”

Before the budget was able to be sent to the LA City Council for approval, it went before the City Council’s Budget Finance and Innovation Committee on May 1, which held hearings for several days with consultation from city departments. The revised version will be voted on by the council Thursday, according to the controller’s office.

Cole said he wants Angelenos to understand how this budget affects their daily lives and decisions, as well as the future of the city.

“When you walk out of your house and step on the sidewalk, you’re experiencing the budget,” he said. “Our effort is to help people understand that how we spend $13 billion of the public’s money has a profound effect, not only on today’s Los Angeles but the Los Angeles that’s going to be here in 10 or 20 or 30 years.”

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