Crisis in SF Budget and Services
“You’re doing a heck of a job, Gavin.” San Francisco’s Chamber of Commerce and Committee on Jobs should say that to their good buddy Mayor Gavin Newsom for resisting revenue measures that could save SF’s budget from total collapse. In cities and states all over the nation, the budget crisis is being used as an excuse to permanently kill social and safety-net programs that took us decades to win.
San Francisco faces a $576 million shortfall, half of its normal discretionary spending. Mayor Newsom has eliminated $115 million from this year’s budget, 40% as devastating cuts to the Public Health Department. He has asked city workers to give back $90 million in pay; Police officers and firefighters have already refused. He plans to take $49 million from the Rainy Day Fund. And he plans to take 12.5% from the 2009-2010 budget of each department, for an additional $144 million.
His so-called “plan” for the remaining $178 million budget shortfall is a special election to lift caps on condominium conversions and sell them for $10,000 (which won’t pass the Supervisors because it would decimate rental housing stocks), and to auction off more taxi medallions (a plan which voters have rejected over and over.)
Other proposals of Newsom’s make the budget crisis worse, not better: redirecting federal stimulus money (intended for existing health and human services from Oct. 2008 through Dec. 2010) to one -time construction and beautification; tax breaks and no-interest loans for business.
Many think Newsom’s real plan is to let the city budget crash and then force through a second round of 12.5% “contingency” cuts to all departments, making $100 million in health cuts. Implementing this second round of cuts will mean massive contracting out and slashing of city and nonprofit health, homeless, family, and other human services. At a town hall meeting on the budget crisis on March 2, the Coalition to Save Public Health presented as much as is currently known about the impact of past, present, and future cuts:
Mental Health: Total loss of outpatient care for 6,500 clients. Uninsured get only crisis care. 2+ month wait for individual outpatient care. Loss of 50+ city positions in outpatient clinics. Half of SF General Hospital acute inpatient beds lost.
Substance Abuse: Half of funding lost. Services lost for 3,500+ individuals. Treatment on Demand Ordinance redefined as only detox and methadone treatment. Loss of outpatient treatment targeting Tenderloin and Central City.
SF General Hospital: Half of nurses in General Medical Clinic and Women’s Clinic laid off. Rape Treatment Program eliminated. Untrained clerical workers substituted for clinically-trained Unit Clerks. Less-trained health workers substituted for Certified Nursing Assistants.
Laguna Honda Hospital: No more low-income seniors or disabled accepted as nursing home patients. Closure of Adult Day Health Center, where families who needed to work could bring Alzheimer patients during the day, but still have them at home at night.
Healthy San Francisco, Universal Healthcare: With layoffs at city clinics, wait time increased from 3 to 6 months. An estimated 50 members per day, many paying premiums, unable to get visits, yet program expands to include still more patients.
The Alternative: Make the Bosses Take the Losses
1. Cut the Fat. The Coalition to Save Public Health has identified $70 million in wasteful or unnecessary costs, including 400 managers hired since a hiring freeze, PR executives for the Mayor or departments, salaries over $150,000, and $1 million in police overtime investigating construction sites.
2. Pass Revenue Measures. An income tax on high earning workers in the city, a gross receipts tax on big business, a transit assessment tax on downtown business, a realistic charge to PG&E for gas and electricity privileges, and a city vehicle tax.
3. Community/Supervisor Input and Transparency. Remove the Mayor’s right to set the total amount of the budget. Provide Supervisors and the community the same budget resources and information as the Mayor’s office.
This is our city, not a playground for the wealthy! Gray Panthers, we need to take it back!