Mayor Ed Lee released his budget proposal today, and thanks to a $55 million increase in tax revenue, it's a rosy one. He's proposing to increase payroll spending on city workers like police (300 more over two years) and firefighters (120 over two years). The proposal also would increase capital spending on projects like MUNI and traffic signals. Thanks in part to voter-approved budget rules, the City's rainy day fund would also increase to $201 million from $158 in the last cycle. (Check out the Chronicle's coverage here and video of the Mayor's announcement here).
But the Mayor's proposal is just that—a proposal. Final enactment happens at the Board of Supervisors, which is expected to modify the plans in ways both small and large. We recently spoke to Supervisor Scott Wiener, who sits on the Board's budget committee, for his reaction to the Mayor's budget proposal.
"There's lots of positive things in this budget," Wiener said. He pointed in particular to a provision that would spend $40 million on road resurfacing, and area that he called the city "negligent." Normally, he said, the City funds road repair though debt spending or in small amounts. "This is completely unprecedented," Wiener said.
But Supervisor Wiener did have some areas of disagreement with the Mayor's proposal. In particular, he would like to see the City to increase its spending on HIV/AIDS treatment past Lee's increase. Although he was happy that the Mayor made up much of the cuts, calling it a "huge step," Wiener would like to close the entire gap. "What's happened," Wiener said, "is that radical Republicans in the Federal Congress have defunded these programs. The Mayor backfilled most of the cuts, but not all of them. There's $3 million more to go. I'd like to see us fund the rest of it." Wiener also pointed to what he called "understaffing" in the City's parks gardeners, patrols, and cleaning crews.
This year is Wiener's third on the Board—in his first the budget was cut and in his second it was increased. Certainly, we asked him, it's less acrimonious when there's more money to spend? Not so fast, he cautioned. "A good budget year is great," he said, "but it becomes hyper-competetive" to allocate funds. "It's always tempting to spend money when we have it, which is why we set up these pre-existing rules to automatically set aside some of the money. We don't even give ourselves the opportunity to spend the reserves. It's good to tie our hands ahead of time."