Newsom Proposes Funding Cuts to Health Care Programs After Failure of Ballot Measures To Increase Taxes
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday proposed a cost-cutting plan that would eliminate or reduce "[d]ozens of city programs," including health clinics and other services, in a "direct response to voters' rejection" of two tax measures on the ballot -- supported by Newsom -- that would have raised funds to maintain the services, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Under the three-page plan, which was drafted this week by the mayor, administration officials and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the city would limit health clinic hours and reduce several other health services.
Mitch Katz, head of the city's Department of Public Health, said he had been given until the end of Friday to decide which mental health programs, health clinics and HIV programs would be targeted for budget cuts.
Newsom estimates that his proposal will result in the elimination of 300 city jobs, 200 of which currently are filled.
The plan would save the city an estimated $97 million over the next 18 months, the Chronicle reports. The tax increases proposed by Measures J and K would have raised $25 million through the end of fiscal year 2005 and $80 million in subsequent fiscal years.
City law requires the budget to be balanced, and the mayor is allowed to enact mid-year funding reductions unilaterally. Although the board can attempt to restore some funding or shift the budget cuts, "Newsom administration officials warn that the money has to come from somewhere," the Chronicle reports. Even if Newsom's plan is implemented in its entirety, San Francisco officials expect to begin the next fiscal year with a $135 million budget deficit.
City Controller Ed Harrington said delaying the cuts would only worsen the situation.
Newsom said, "The reality in San Francisco is we cannot spend money we do not have. The consequence of the decision that was made by the voters ... requires me to make choices that will substantially affect the budget of the City and County of San Francisco, not just this year but for years to come."
Supervisor Aaron Peskin called the proposed budget cuts "bad," adding, "We're going to be laying off street sweepers, recreation directors, cutting AIDS programs. Look, I get it. The voters were clear: Rather than raise taxes, make budget cuts."
Katz, who already made heavy cuts to DPH's budget earlier this year, said, "We don't have much choice now but to cut into services."
The mayor is expected to revise the plan over the next two months and implement the budget cuts by Jan. 15 (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/5).