This one's ugly - Page 3

The worst budget season in years begins with more polarization than usual
Budget Committee Chair John Avalos

Campos said Newsom's slick budget presentation glossed over painful cuts to essential services, cuts that activists and Budget Analyst Harvey Rose have been discovering over the last two weeks. "I felt the mayor has done a real good job of presenting things to make it look like it's not as bad as it really is," Campos said.



Avalos expressed confidence that his committee will produce a document to the full board in July that reflects progressive priorities.

"We're going to pass to the full board a budget that we have control over," Avalos said, noting that a committee majority that also includes Sups. Campos and Ross Mirkarimi strongly favors progressive budget priorities.

He also praised the committee's more conservative members, Sups. Bevan Dufty and Carmen Chu, as engaged participants in improving the mayor's budget. "I think the tension on the committee is healthy."

Ultimately, Avalos says, he knows the board members can alter Newsom's budget priorities. But his goal is to go even further and develop a consensus budget that creatively spreads the pain.

"Ideally, I want a unanimous vote on the Board of Supervisors," Avalos said.

In the current polarized budget climate, that's an ambitious goal that may be out of reach. But there are some real benefits to attaining a unanimous board vote, including the ability to place revenue measures on the November ballot that can be passed by a simply majority vote (state law generally requires a two-third vote to increase taxes, but it makes provisions for fiscal emergencies, when a unanimous Board of Supervisors vote can waive the two-thirds rule).

Avalos has proposed placing sales tax and parcel tax measures on the fall ballot. Other proposals that have been discussed by a stakeholder committee assembled by Chiu include a measure to replace the payroll tax with a new gross receipts tax and general obligation bond measures to pay for things like park and road maintenance, which would allow those budget expenses to be applied elsewhere.

But Avalos said Newsom will need to step up and show some leadership if the measures are going to have any hope of being approved. "To get the two-thirds vote we need to win a revenue measure in this bad economy is going to be really hard," Avalos said.

"The mayor is open to new revenue measures as long as they include significant reforms and are conceived and supported by a wide swath of the community including labor and business," Ballard said.

Sup. Sean Elsbernd — one of the most conservative supervisors — has repeatedly said he won't support new revenue measures unless they are accompanied by substantial budget reforms that will rein in ballooning expenditures in areas like city employee pensions.

"Pension reform. Health care reform. Spending reform. One of the above. A combination of the above," Elsbernd told the Guardian when asked what he wants to see in a budget revenue deal.

Avalos says he's mindful that not every progressive priority can be fully funded as the city wrestles with a budget deficit of almost $500 million, fully half the city's discretionary budget. "It's a crappy situation, and we can make it just a crummy situation."

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