The budget mysteries - Page 2

Newsom promises deep cuts -- but where?
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"The idea is to save jobs and programs."

These givebacks from SEIU are part of the $90 million in concessions the city hopes to get from unions, including those that represent police, firefighters and nurses.

THE PERILS OF TWO-YEAR BUDGETING

As it becomes clear that givebacks and cuts won't be enough to solve the city's fiscal crisis, there is talk that the mayor wants to switch to a two-year budget process. Critics say that could represent a massive transfer of power to the Mayor's Office, unless the Board of Supervisors also gets the power to approve the mayor's midyear cuts.

"As it is right now, we have power through the Board of Supervisors for one month of the year," said one community organizer, who asked to remain anonymous. "The rest of the time Newsom moves his own agenda through his midyear cuts."

A summary of a March 16 Controller's Office "budget improvement project" recommends that "the board's add-back process should require that program restorations and enhancements be reviewed and analyzed by department staff and the board's budget analyst;" that the "mayor and board should outreach to the general public regarding budget priorities;" and that the "city should adopt a two year budget process consistent with the city's financial plan."

Sup. Chris Daly said he thinks this year's grim three-year budget projections make a strong argument against a two-year budget process. "Projections are never right," said Daly, who used to chair the powerful budget committee. "Two years ago we weren't projecting how bad it was going to be. We can't do budgets for years out past the current fiscal year. It just doesn't work."

Sup. David Campos, who sits on the current budget committee, said he wants to see the increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding being provided to the city's public health and human services departments used to restore proposed cuts, jobs, and services.

Much of the federal money will be earmarked for non-General Fund infrastructre projects at the Municipal Transporation Agency, Housing Authority, airport, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

"We're saying that if FMAP is coming in so that revenue cuts are not made in the public health area, then why not use these monies to fill gaps, replace cuts, restore funds, preserve programs?" Campos asked.

Campos also wants the mayor and the board to sit down and talk about the November ballot. "I don't think the budget hole is going to be closed on backs of labor alone," Campos told us. "We're focused on cuts, elimination of programs, layoffs ... But why aren't we talking about what revenue measures we are putting on the November ballot?

Chiu said he thinks Newsom is committed to some form of tax-based revenue measure. "Just as we can't solve our budget deficit by taxing our way out of it, so we can't solve it by cutting our way out of it either," Chiu said. "None of our tax or revenue-generating options would come close to filling 25 percent of that gap."

Noting that business is "more open to taxes that share the burden of who pays," Chiu observed that "it's important to balance the cuts so it's not just social services and the health department taking the burden."