He may have side-stepped the issue a bit last week, but Mayor Kevin Johnson now says the battered city budget will be his focus this month.
Johnson told reporters this morning that he wants to be "actively involved" in trying to convince the city's public safety unions to agree to contribute to their pensions. Faced with a $15.7 million deficit, city budget officials said nearly 100 cops and firefighters will be laid off if those workers don't pay the full share of the employee contribution of their CalPERS retirement plans. The city would continue to pay the employer share.
The budget was released on Thursday, the same day the mayor began talks with the owners of the Sacramento Kings in an attempt to revive the city's collapsed arena deal. The mayor was not immediately briefed on the budget and Johnson didn't answer budget-related questions from a television reporter on Thursday.
Now, Johnson says he'll use his connections with the police and fire unions to urge those groups to make pension concessions.
"We don't have anywhere else to go," the mayor said. "We want to maintain a high level of public safety in Sacramento and we're going to have to have people contribute for their (pensions). That's just a reality, that's not going to be avoidable and there will be no better time than the present."
Besides seeking those concessions, Johnson said "we've got to create a business climate that's friendly."
"Small business is the economic engine that creates jobs," he said, adding he wants the city to do more to make sure "we are the preferred place to do business."
City staff will publicly present the budget tonight at the City Council meeting.