The Board of Supes will have to vote later in July to approve the final budget, but the final package at this point is pretty much complete. The negotiations took less time than in past years, and the Budget and Appropriations Committee approved a version that will change very little.
I realize that some people says this is a fairly insignificant exercise, since the supes typically change only a small fraction of the total budget, in this case, according to Budget Chair Connie Chan, about $75 million. That’s less than half of one percent of the city’s $14 billion budget.
But that’s misleading, because more than half of the total budget goes for things like SFO, which is self-funding; less than $7 billion is in the General Fund, under the control of the supes, and half of that is already earmarked for special programs.
So the supes are actually dealing with a little less than $3 billion, and $75 million is about 2.5 percent of that. Still sounds small, right?
Except that the money is going to fund a lot of crucial programs that profoundly impact the lives of thousands of San Franciscans—and unless the board had demanded changes, that money would be gone.
Breed’s original budget focused on law enforcement and tax cuts, a neo-liberal approach that was a bit astonishing even by her standards. It included brutal cuts in affordable housing, child care, housing code enforcement, the very successful small-sites acquisition program, the Ethics Commission, and even the Food Bank. She cut money for domestic violence programs.
The supes found other cuts to put most of that money back.
The board didn’t fund a $10 million supplemental allocation to create an Office of Reparations, but did put $4 million in the regular budget to get the process started. But at this point, Breed has given no indication that she intends to spend that money.
From Chan’s Office:
Although the Mayor proposed a balanced budget to the Board of Supervisors at the beginning of June, funding to many essential services and programs across the City were not included. Through a series of public hearings, scrutinizing spending, and negotiating with the Mayor’s Office, city departments, and community advocates, Chair Chan was able to restore many critical services.
“At the beginning of this process, I set out with a goal to bring accountability to our city spending, and this budget accomplishes that,” said Budget Chair Connie Chan. “Together, we crafted a budget that meets the demands of all San Franciscans, especially our most vulnerable.”
The board blocked the raid on Prop. C housing funds, and “Baby C” child-care funds. (Again, the mayor may simply decide not to spend housing money, as she has done inthe past. She still isn’t allocating additional money from a voter-approved real-estate transfer tax to create social housing.)
And the committee didn’t make any significant cuts in the ever-increasing (and frankly, bloated) Police Department budget, which includes a lot of expensive overtime dedicated to protecting high-end retail in Union Square.
But overall, the progressive supes are pleased with the work the Budget Committee did. Sups. Hillary Ronen and Shamann Walton joined Chan in voting for the plan.
From Sup. Dean Preston:
These changes will matter, a lot, on a day-to-day basis, for many, many people. Chan was unafraid to challenge the mayor, and her work and that of her colleagues will quite literally save lives.
There’s a larger issue here.
I think it’s fair to say that the US Congress and the California Legislature have more of a role in setting the federal and state budget than the SF supes have here in town. The supes can’t add to the budget; they can only cut or reallocate. The mayor is free to ignore money that the supes allocate.
The structural issue doesn’t get a lot of attention during the annual budget scramble. At a certain point, we all need to think about creating a community-based committee to study, draft, and implement major City Charter reforms.
In the meantime, the budget has a lot of problems, but if the mayor had her way, it would be much, much worse.