Another bloody budget - Page 2

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

Yet Chiu said many of Newsom's assumptions for revenue were on shaky ground, prompting City Controller Ben Rosenfield — Newsom's former budget director — to place $142 million on reserve in case the projected revenues don't pan out.

"These budget deficits continue as far as the eye can see," Chiu noted. "Even if those amounts come in, something like 90 percent of them are one-time fixes. So even if the mayor is right, it doesn't solve next year's problem, or the year after. Which is why many of us at the board believe that we have to consider additional revenue proposals to think about the long-term fiscal health of the city."

Sup. John Avalos, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, described Newsom's budget as "pretty much an all-cuts budget," noting that he and Chiu planned to introduce revenue-generating measures. They were expected to introduce proposals — including an increase in the hotel tax and a change in the business tax — at the June 8 board meeting.

Because despite Newsom's rosy assessment, many of his proposed cuts are deep and painful: the Recreation and Park Department would be cut by 42 percent (with its capital projects budget slashed by 90 percent), Economic and Workforce Development by 34 percent, Ethics Commission by 23 percent (basically eliminating public financing for candidates), Department of the Environment by 14 percent, Emergency Management by 10 percent, and the list goes on.

 

CUTS TO SOCIAL SERVICES

Progressives say Newsom's budget reflects skewed priorities. While relatively little is asked of public safety departments, health and human services programs face major staffing and funding losses. "Poor people are being asked to shoulder the burden," noted Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness.

Nearly $31 million would be slashed from the Department of Public Health, and more than $22 million would be cut from the Human Services Agency under Newsom's proposed budget. While this reflects only 2–3 percent of the departmental budgets, there's widespread concern that the cuts target programs designed to shield the most vulnerable residents.

Proposals that deal with housing are of special concern. "We have more and more families moving into SRO hotel rooms. We have families in garages. We have a really scary situation for many families," Friedenbach said.

Affordable housing programs within the Mayor's Office of Housing would get slashed from $16.8 million currently down to just $1.2 million, a 92 percent cut. Other cuts seem small, but will have big impacts of those affected. Newsom's budget eliminates 42 housing subsidies, which boost rent payments for families on the brink of homelessness, for a savings of $264,000. Meanwhile, a locally funded program that subsidizes housing costs for people with AIDS would be cut, for a savings of $559,000.

Transitional housing would be affected, too, such as 59 beds at a homeless shelter on Otis Street, which Friedenbach says would be lost under Newsom's budget proposal. "We've already lost more than 400 shelter beds since Newsom came to office, so that'd be a huge hit," she said. Since the recession began, she added, the wait-list at shelters has tripled. The Ark House, a temporary housing facility that serves LGBT youth, would also be closed.

Overall, homeless services delivered by HSA would take a $12 million hit in Newsom's budget, or about 13 percent, offset slightly by homeless services being increased by $2 million within the Mayor's Office budget, a 71 percent increase.

Outpatient mental health services, such as Community Behavioral Health Services, would also be affected (See "Cutting from the bottom"), in violation of current city law. Several years ago, then-Sup. Tom Ammiano introduced legislation establishing a "single standard of care" to guarantee access to mental health services for indigent and uninsured residents.

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