Behind the all-smiles budget - Page 2

Mayor Lee's budget stops the bleeding — but doesn't repair the damage

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Mayor Ed Lee budget that was greeted warmly by everyone from Sup. David Campos to Board President David Chiu
PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS

"We want to thank you for that great sacrifice," Lee said, addressing Suhr, who sat in front row of public benches, dressed in uniform. Lee next acknowledged that adequate funding for social services also helps public safety. "Without those services, officers on the street would have a harder job," he said.

Lee also praised the departments of Public Health and Human Services for helping to identify $39 million in federal dollars and $16 million in state dollars, to help keep services open and the city safer.

Lee noted that San Francisco no longer has a one-year budget process and has just released its first five-year financial plan as part of its decision to go in five-year planning cycles.

"To address this, I've asked for shared sacrifice, " Lee continued, adding that he recently released his long-awaited pension reform charter amendment, emphasizing that it was built through a consensus and collaborative-based approach.

Lee also said he would consider asking voters to approve what he called "a recovery sales tax" in November if Gov. Jerry Brown is unable to extend the state's sales tax. That would bring in $60 million — but it is only on the table as a way to backfill further state budget cuts.

Lee observed that San Francisco is growing, the economy is looking brighter, and unemployment is down from more than 10 percent last January to 8.5 percent today. He plugged the America's Cup, the city's local hire legislation, the Department of Public Works' apprenticeship programs, and tourism, both in terms of earmarking funding in the budget for these programs and their potential to boost city revenues.

He said his budget proposed $308 million in infrastructure investments that include enhanced disability access, rebuilding jails, and energy efficiency, and is proposing a $248 million General Obligation bond for the November ballot to reduce the street repair backlog.

"We will get these streets repaired," he promised.

"This submission of a budget is not an end at all, it's the beginning of the process," he continued, going on to recognize Chu for her work getting the process rolling and thanking Budget Analyst Harvey Rose in advance. "I do know his cooperation is critical."

And he concluded by thanking each of the supervisors. "I will continue enjoying working with you — we need to keep the city family tight and together."

The sentiment was welcomed by supervisors. "As he said, this is the beginning of the process, and it's an important and symbolic step" Campos said. "The budget shows that a lot of good programs have been saved. But there is still work to do.

"There are still gaps in the safety network," he added, singling out cuts to violence-prevention programs. "It's my hope they will be restored."

 

THE BAD NEWS

But even if the cuts for this year are restored, the city budget is nowhere near where it ought to be. "We still had to make cuts," Lee acknowledged.

"We did consider very seriously a whole host of revenue ideas that we had," he said. "They were not off the agenda at all." At the same time, he noted that state law requires a two-thirds vote for new taxes (although that threshold drops to 50 percent in presidential election years). "We decided that it's not that they were bad ideas, but that we wouldn't be able to sell them at this time."

Lee praised some of the revenue ideas that have been suggested in the past year, including the alcoholic beverage fee proposal by Sup. John Avalos, which Lee called "a pretty good idea." He said that "a year or two from now" an additional sales tax and a parcel tax (for the police or for schools and open space) might be on the agenda.

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