Days after the Los Angeles City Council tentatively backed a half-percent sales tax hike for the spring ballot, Council President Herb Wesson outlined which departments are likely to benefit from the funds at a breakfast event on Thursday.

Wesson pitched the tax proposal at an informal gathering sponsored by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects in downtown Los Angeles.

During the 45 minute roundtable discussion, Wesson pointed to four key departments, calling them a "four-legged stool" tied to public safety.

"In the event we were successful in this sales tax, we would sustain the Police Department," Wesson said. "We would enhance the Fire Department because they are really thin.

"The City Attorney's Office is another key to that four-legged stool. Just Tuesday, we had to continue an item where they want to lay off 50 more city attorneys, so we need to augment the city attorney's budget."

The fourth department is Recreation and Parks, which Wesson said "is now on life support."

"Everything else, we'd just have to try to stabilize, we'd have to stay focused and disciplined," Wesson added. "No raises, no new programs for a while."

On Tuesday, the City Council voted 10-4 to place the a measure on the March ballot that would raise the sales tax to 9.5 percent.

The measure, which still requires Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's consent, needs a simple majority of voters to pass.

Given the nature of the ballot motion, city leaders can't specifically say which programs will be funded, and can only speak generally about the money's uses.

If the city wants to fund specific projects or programs with the taxpayer money, the ballot measure would need to pass by a two-thirds vote.

The City Council, along with Wesson, are pitching the tax as necessary to the public safety of Los Angeles. Police Chief Charlie Beck has reportedly warned that officers will be laid off if the measure doesn't pass.

After the breakfast, Wesson said his comments on which departments would benefit were just "thoughts" and not a proposal.

"If we were to be successful, these are things that I would recommend we examine," Wesson said.

At the meeting, and in an interview after, Wesson also stated he believes that more cuts are coming, even if the measure passes. Asked if those cuts could include layoffs, Wesson replied: "I don't know. Nothing is off the table at this point."

Earlier in the week, Miguel Santana, the city's top financial adviser, warned City Council members that with the sales tax, the city still faces an additional $100 million shortfall the following year.

The tax proposal has gotten mixed reviews, with some unions supporting the measure, and business-related groups opposing it, fearing it will drive away shoppers.

dakota.smith@dailynews.com

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