Another bloody budget

Newsom's latest budget slashes social services and would leave a long legacy of deficits

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Mayor Gavin Newsom released his city budget proposal June 1, downplaying its most adverse impacts
PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS

rebeccab@sfbg.com

In the days since June 1, when Mayor Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposal for San Francisco's $6.48 billion budget for the next fiscal year, public sector employees and community organizations have been poring over the hefty document to determine how their jobs, services, and programs survived cuts made to close a $483 million shortfall.

For police and firefighters, a key Newsom constituency, the news is good. There were no layoffs to San Francisco firefighters, and while members of the Police Officer's Association gave up $9.3 million in wage concessions under the lucrative contract Newsom gave them a few years ago, police officers will still receive a 4 percent wage increase on July 1.

For others, the release of the mayor's budget signified a tough fight looming before the Board of Supervisors, one with high stakes. Cuts to homeless services, mental health care, youth programs, and housing assistance, along with privatization proposals, have raised widespread concern among labor and liberal advocacy organizations. Public input on the budget will continue at the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee until July 15, when the amended document is considered by the full board.

At a June 1 announcement ceremony, Newsom asserted that the budget was balanced "without draconian cuts," saying, "We were able to avoid the kind of cataclysmic devastation that some had argued was inevitable in this budget."

Nearly a week later, Board President David Chiu told the Guardian that sort of cataclysm wouldn't be staved off for long if the city continues on the course of repeatedly making deep budget cuts without proposing any significant new sources of revenue.

"Now that the smoke has cleared, it is clear that the mayor's proposed budget is perfect for a mayor who is only going to be around for the short term, but it does not address the long-term fiscal crisis that our city is in," Chiu said. "Next year, we're looking at over a $700 million budget deficit. The year after that, we're looking at almost an $800 million budget deficit. The budget proposal that Newsom put out balances the ... deficit on many one-time tricks and assumptions of uncertain revenue."

Meanwhile, advocates said even the cuts proposed this time would bring serious consequences, especially with unemployment on the rise, state programs being cut in Sacramento, and families feeling the pinch more than ever.

"Poor and working class families, and families of color in San Francisco, are facing kind of an assault on funding and on safety net services on multiple levels," said Chelsea Boilard, family policy and communications associate for Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth. "I think a lot of it is that families are concerned about their ability to stay in the city and raise their kids here."

 

"NO NEW TAXES"

During the budget announcement, Newsom emphasized the positive. He found $12 million in new revenue simply by closing a loophole that had allowed Internet-based companies to avoid paying that amount in hotel taxes. He said 350 currently occupied positions would be cut, but noted that it was less than a cap of 425 that public sector unions had agreed to. Cuts were inevitable since the ailing economy inflicted the city's General Fund with significant losses, particularly from business and property tax revenues.

Nonetheless, Newsom's budget is already coming under fire from progressive leaders. For one, there are no new revenue-generating measures in the form of general taxes, which could have averted the worst blows to critical safety-net services and might help remedy the city's economic woes in the long-term.

"There are no new taxes in this budget," Newsom declared. "I know some folks just prefer tax increases. I don't."

Comments

Well, everyone better get used to these budgets because it's going to be much worse next year and the year after. The truth is SF simply can't afford to continue programs and services that are not required by federal or state law. The money is not there and will not be there in the future. Spending $200,000,000 a year on "homeless services" is insane. A very large number of our local "homeless" have no reason to be here in the first place and are going to have to find some other place to fleece. We're out of money. A lot of people used to having the city taxpayers subsidize everything are going to have to either pay for things themselves or find somewhere else that can afford to pay. We can't as we are out of money. A lot of people used to having the city hold their hand as they wander through life are going to have to go it alone. We can't afford it anymore.

There are not going to be new taxes. Not in this economy. SF, like the state, is going to have to learn to live with a lot less government and a lot less services. We're broke.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2010 @ 9:19 am

Yes, you're right. It's true. We've been living way beyond our means and wasting unsupportable amounts on a luxury we just can't afford any more: the ruling class.

Posted by Michael Lyon on Jun. 13, 2010 @ 3:18 am

Guest, you're right. We're living way beyond our means, wasting unsupportable amounts of money on a luxury we just can't afford any more: the ruling class.

Posted by Michael Lyon on Jun. 13, 2010 @ 3:20 am

Well, Guest, let's work with the scenarios you mentioned. How much money would be left over in the SF budget if first priority is given to mandated programs and services and basic city services? How can it be determined fairly who will benefit from the largesse (such as it is) of government and who must suffer without? I'd welcome a discussion of how and why city government should prioritize in tough economic times that reaches a middle ground between "as little government as possible except for property protection's blank check" and "as many government programs as people ask for."

And please, let's stop using aid for the homeless as the rationale for cutting back on all government social services. That's just an excuse to make one feel less guilty about the Board of Supervisors' making some terrible and painful decisions.

Or we could try to increase the pool of moneys available to city government to make the lives of as many citizens as possible better. If people are willing to buy million dollar condos to live in San Francisco, that says to me they have an equal responsibility to pay their fair share of the city services that make this city such a desirable place to live.

Newsom clearly is not interested in any ideas for solving the city's budget shortfall that doesn't fall somewhere within his agenda. I suspect this year's budget like previous years was crafted after the Mayor had an orgy with his Official Milton Friedman Sex Doll (TM). Because what Newsom wants to do in his budget would have given that vile Chicago Boy economist a good stiffy.

Posted by Peter on Jun. 09, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

With a line like " I suspect this year's budget like previous years was crafted after the Mayor had an orgy with his Official Milton Friedman Sex Doll (TM). " how do you expect us to take anything you say seriously?

Of course, this does help illustrate that the SFBG is priced at exactly the value of its services. The laws of economics prevail.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2010 @ 7:08 am

This article ignores the elephant in the room -- the City spends way too much on public employee pension costs, healthcare costs, and wages. Until that spending is cut, there is never going to be enough money for the projects cited in the article. And the voters don't want to vote for new taxes when their money is going to finance sweetheart pensions.

Posted by Patrick on Jun. 13, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

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