The Agenda: Controller says SF budget lacks buffer for Trump cuts

Federal and state reductions 'likely to exceed' what Mayor Lee has planned for

The City Controller’s Office released its analysis of Mayor Ed Lee’s proposed budget June 9, and it contains a rather ominous statement.

I haven’t seen any press on this at all, although I could have missed it. Most of the document is the normal analysis of the city’s revenue trends and projections; the controller agrees that the mayor’s projections are about where they should be.

Mayor Ed Lee has no specific plans for raising revenue to offset the Trump cuts
Mayor Ed Lee has no specific plans for raising revenue to offset the Trump cuts

Then the report says this:

Federal and state budget cuts “are likely to exceed the losses assumed in the proposed budget.”

Not much detail here, nor much discussion. Just a note that the city has set aside $60 million, which won’t be anywhere near enough if anything resembling the budget cuts that Trump and the Republicans in Congress are talking about go through.

The city gets more than $1 billion a year from the feds and the state, and the state isn’t going to be in any position to bail cities out.

The supes have been talking about this since at least March 9, but the Mayor’s Office keeps saying there is nothing to worry about.

Sup. Aaron Peskin has been pushing for a state bill (currently sponsored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, but not going to pass this year) that would allow the city to enact an income tax. That could easily raise enough money to backfill the Trump cuts (and would target the same people who will most benefit from the Trump tax reductions). Oddly, some of the supes, including Board President London Breed, did not support the idea.

So what is City Hall going to do? Just wait until the axe drops, so the majority of the supes and the mayor can wring their hands and say they have no choice but to cut services?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the GOP leadership in Congress will decide not to cut funding for cities and states, and will reject the Trump tax cuts, and San Francisco and California will be just fine.

But is that a bet we really want to take right now?

The Budget and Finance Committee meets Thursday/15 at 10am to hear comments on the entire budget. I wonder if this will even be part of the discussion.

Two pieces in the NYT this weekend about the future of the Democratic Party and, like much of the modern mainstream debate, both take the position that Democrats can either make the left base happy – or win.

“Democrats in split screen,” one headline reads. The base wants it all. The Party wants to win.”

This sounds a whole lot like Bill Clinton’s mantra: “I want to win.” That may have worked in 1992, when he was running against an incumbent who had tanked the economy, but I fear the reporters and columnists who put out this message are missing something.

Isn’t it possible that one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost is that she ignored what the much-maligned “base” on the left is talking about? Isn’t it possible that economic justice – including controls on Wall Street greed and tax reform that hits the rich and gives more to the middle class and poor – is a winning message?

I agree that you have to find candidates who have roots in a district and can understand and talk to people who dislike “the elites.” But there’s a reason Bernie Sanders won Wisconsin and Michigan, which could have given Clinton the White House.

We can all talk forever about what went wrong with the Clinton campaign (I like the analysis by Van Jones and Steve Phillips that a billion dollars was badly misspent, and there are many other factors).

But isn’t it at least worth discussing the possibility that the “base” is right – not just about the need for single-payer health care, higher taxes on the wealthy, affordable housing, and more spending on services, but about the way the Democrats can win?


A project in Bernal Heights that will require significant excavation near a PG&E gas main is back before the Planning Commission Thursday/15. It’s been delayed repeatedly because of environmental concerns, and although PG&E and the developer insist that all will be just fine, the folks who live nearby (like the rest of us) are nervous about trusting a utility that has a very shaky record on safety of late.

This is, I believe, the only gas main in the city that is not buried beneath a street. If the company would agree to move the line ten feet deeper underground, a lot of the concerns might go away. So far, PG&E says: Don’t worry about a thing.

Oh, and if you haven’t heard enough from me, stop by the Bernal Heights Democratic Club meeting Thursday/15. I will be talking about “The state of the nation/state/city.” As Director Comey says, “Lordy.” 7pm, 515 Cortland. Free.