Breed budget prioritizes cuts to frontline workers over taxes on the rich

Layoffs or pay reductions for the people who are protecting us from COVID -- but less support for making the billionaires pay their share.

The mayor will be delivering her delayed budget to the supes this week, and it appears that she wants to balance it in part by delaying contracted wage increases for frontline workers.

The mayor is, in effect, asking for pay cuts – the 3 percent raises that city workers are due were part of an existing contract. The contract states that in a fiscal crisis, those pay hikes can be deferred to December, which is already happening. If the workers won’t take the cut, she’s threatening layoffs.

Breed seems more interested in cuts for frontline workers than higher taxes on the rich.

The city’s facing a big budget deficit – as is the state. These are uncertain times, and I realize that (unlike the feds and to some extent the state) the city can’t borrow money and live on deficit spending.

But let’s take a step back for a second: The only reason SF isn’t in far worse shape in this crisis is because frontline city workers have helped contain the virus.

“We are part of the reason the rate of infection is relatively low,” Jen Esteen, a nurse who is vice president of organizing for SEIU Local 1021, told me. “City workers are providing care to people in need.”

In fact, she said, “many of us still are getting on BART, with reduced service, and Muni, with reduced service, and travelling to work and standing on the front lines of the critical city services.”

Why are we not treating these folks as heroes, instead of an expense item that needs to be cut?

Some context: A starting SFPD officer makes almost $90,000 a year, about twice what many workers who are risking their own lives and saving our lives every day are paid.  Each officer costs that city on average, with benefits, about $155,000 a year.

San Francisco has more cops per capita that Los Angeles. If we want to save money, aren’t we supposed to be talking about defunding the police?

Mayor London Breed has talked about redirecting some of the bloated $700 million police budget to services for the Black community, which is great — but so far, her cuts to the SFPD are fairly modest.

Overall, she is looking to balance the budget by cutting the people who do the most for the least pay.

More context:

While the pandemic has cost millions of workers their jobs, and many are facing pay cuts, and the GOP wants to cut unemployment benefits, virtually no CEOs have taken any salary cuts at all.

In this pandemic, on the national as well as (sadly) the local level, there appear to be no cuts for the richest people, just for everyone else.

The state Legislature is considering a very modest increase in the income tax for the highest earners; the CEO world is revolting.

In San Francisco, Breed was initially against raising business taxes (she wanted any changes to be “revenue-neutral”) and only agreed at the last minute to accept a compromise with the supes that would raise more than $100 million a year, mostly from the tech industry.

So far, she has not signed on to the Overpaid CEO tax, which could bring another $100 million to $150 million into local coffers (entirely by taxing giant corporations that pay their chief executives more than 100 times what they pay median workers). Nor is she backing an increase in the real-estate transfer tax on sales of more than $10 million, which could bring in close to $200 million a year.

The CEO and Big Real Estate taxes alone would bring in more money that it will cost to fund contracted raises for city workers – without layoffs.

“Why doesn’t the mayor have revenue measures as part of her priority?” Esteen asked. “Why do the very rich just get richer while everyone else has to suffer? It’s unacceptable.”

If Breed has supported Prop. C, we would have another $300 million a year to spend addressing homelessness. Instead, she sided with big business. Now, she clearly wants that money.

If she would support, and campaign for, the Overpaid CEO Tax and the increase in real-estate transfer taxes, she wouldn’t have to cut frontline workers.

Also: The city has $1 billion in reserves. The crisis will end at some point; saving jobs and lives is what reserves are for.

I don’t get it.