Lee budget avoids cuts, but some say too few benefit from the boom

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Mayor Ed Lee today released his proposed 2013-15 city budget in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at City Hall, a $7.9 billion spending plan that he said reflects the “San Francisco values of fiscal responsibility, social responsibility, and investment in our city’s future.”

It is the biggest budget in city history, divided almost equally between a $3.9 billion General Fund budget and self-supporting enterprises such as the airport and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and it has been buoyed by increasing tax revenues from the vibrant economy and progressive reforms such as a hike in the real estate transfer tax.

That latter tool for improving the city’s usually bleak budget picture was something Lee didn’t mention in his speech, focusing instead on his “strategic investments in job creation,” which have actually been a mixed fiscal bag given the tax breaks used to support them, such as the Mid-Market Payroll Tax Exclusion that Twitter and other tech firms have taken advantage of to avoid paying taxes on new hires.

Lee has used some of the improving revenue stream to avoid the cuts to social services that mayors have routinely proposed in recent years, which the supervisors then work to undo in a budget dance that has gotten tiresome for many of the players involved. “This year, I proposed a budget that protects our social safety net,” Lee said.

But some supervisors and social service providers say the mayor didn’t go far enough, and they say the improving fiscal situation should be used to restore some of the deep budget cuts made under Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration, as well as to provide better services to the neighborhoods.

“There’s a lot more money in the budget, but it’s not being shared,” Sup. John Avalos told us. “People around San Francisco expect that if the budget is growing they’ll see tangible benefits.”

Avalos, a former budget chair who spearheaded the successful campaign to increase the city’s real estate transfer tax two years ago, said it appears that too much city spending is still focused around downtown. “All the people who opposed the increase in the real estate transfer tax will gladly spend the money,” he said.

Board President David Chiu echoed Avalos’ point that the benefits of this budget aren’t being broadly shared in a city with a rapidly rising cost of living. “We continue to hear about a lot of unmet needs with San Franciscans who are still struggling,” Chiu told us.

Reacting to a Guardian question about the supervisors’ comments, Lee told us, “Actually, I think it’s quite spread out,” but that he’s open to working with supervisors to ensure the needs of city residents are met. “There are going to be discussions about other things we could do,” he said during a press briefing outside his Room 200 office. “Each of [the supervisors] gave me their lists to take a look at and we couldn’t fund them all.”

Sup. Mark Farrell, who chairs the Budget & Finance Committee that will begin hashing out the final budget next week, told us, “The devil is in the details, and I’ll have some fun reading over the weekend, and then we’ll get to work.”

Comments

used to build up our reserves. Because you know and I know that the big elephant in the room is the city's unfunded pension and healthcare obligations to the city's workers.

That problem is potentially so huge that it may bankrupt us no matter what happens, but there is really no excuse for throwing any surplus at the same old city agencies and non-profits that got us into this mess in the first place.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

The proposed budget has nearly $4 billion for salaries and benefits for city employees, yet designates only $72 million for capital projects.

The mission of the City and County of San Francisco: employ as many people as possible and shower them with salaries and benefits.

Posted by The Commish on May. 31, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

control spending when we have a severe fiscal crisis and deficit. As soon as things look rosier, everyone with an agenda comes out of the woodwork wanting more money for this, that and the other.

On that basis, maybe we need another recession, as that appears to be the only thing that focuses City Hall and Sacramento on actually saving us poor taxpayers some money.

That's why Norquist is so adamant about the "no tax increases" pledge. Government is a beast that cannot be managed, constrained or controlled, so all you can do is starve the beast.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

He's suffering at $300,000 per year. San Francisco is expensive - give all city employees guaranteed 5% raises per year for life and then grant their dependents the same benefits for life too!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 31, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

Put like this it doesn't seem that lousy, in case you work it
outside upwards of a twelvemonth this kind of bargain would come to an incredible 2255% APR.

Posted by Jai on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 10:44 am

That's the answer. And when we're done spending we should spend some more!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 31, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

Philly is also a city and county. By any measure the spending is absurd. So while we now get assaulted by meter maids on Sundays we also get sh*t for services for this extraordinary amount of money- potholes everywhere, horrible Muni, SFPD has lowest felony arrest record in U.S....I could go on.

And as mentioned earlier, with surplus funds no one even bothers to consider paying down the billions in unfunded health care and pension liabilities.

The media's coverage of this budget is an absolute joke - simply regurgitating City Hall press releases.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

will recall that in relative good times some years ago there was an actual surplus, the "progressives" like man-child Daly had fits trying to figure out how to spend it.

Instead of perhaps spending on things that may actually help the city, CCSF, Paving streets, buying new MUNI buses, putting it away for the next recession... Our progressives want to spend taxes on the wind.

Posted by matlock on May. 31, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

and as to "representing" District II, he c e r t a i n l y does not represent the citizens of District II per se.

---/ These vulgarian centrists, these little "operativa" of the pseudo riche infestation running SF City government, h a v e g o t t o g o !

to all my local American Conservative sock puppets that have stopped by so far ;

f u c k y o u and get the fuck out of my city!

\0.o/

Posted by GuestofHonor on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

other US location, and only as a sign of how weird SF politics really is, can he be regarded as any form of right-winger.

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