A Los Angeles City Council committee voted Tuesday to recommend six furlough days for police officers and certain firefighters in January if labor talks are unproductive in the coming months.
The proposal was the single biggest change made by the council's Budget and Finance Committee to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposed 2011-12 budget.
Committee members said they did not favor Villaraigosa's plan to borrow $42.6 million to get through the coming year. So they replaced that plan with a series of new cuts, including unpaid days off for sworn police officers and "special duty" firefighters -- those who are assigned to desk jobs.
Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller, who advises the council on policy, said in his 42-page budget report that scheduling the furloughs for January would give city officials time to work with public safety unions to find other alternatives. But he also said the furloughs were a better option than borrowing to balance the budget.
"The city has never had to resort to deficit financing in the past to balance its budget, and it should only be pursued if there are no other viable options," he wrote.
Councilman Paul Koretz, who voted for the plan, said the furlough concept was one of several "lousy" options in this year's budget.
"Given all the other choices, it seemed like a fair thing to do," he said. "The LAPD is at an all-time high in personnel and crime is very low. If we have to make a difficult choice, a few furlough days is as good as any."
Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters Los Angeles City Local 112, said the furlough plan would be bad for public safety. He said he doubted that the furloughs would ultimately happen.
Villaraigosa's budget will be presented to the full council on Friday, with voting taking place next week.