SFPD and the sheriff’s department get defunded by the tune of $120 million in Mayor Breed’s just-announced, $26 billion two-year budget.
The dual crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing unrest over police brutality are two separate problems, but San Francisco mayor London Breed sees one as presenting a potential solution for the other. The post-George Floyd calls for defunding the police may be a fiscally convenient way for San Francisco to close its $1.5 billion deficit, which can’t just spiral upward forever, because the city is required by law to pass a balanced budget each year.
Mayor London Breed just launched the first salvo in deflating the ballooning coronavirus budget shortfalls. The Examiner reports that Breed’s newly unveiled 2020-21 and 2021-22 budgets cut $125 million from law enforcement to make up for a spike in public health costs and the ongoing decimation of local tourism and hospitality industries, and the loss of tax revenue that represents.
Breed proposed her new budget Friday morning at 11:30 a.m., and the speech is already up on Youtube and Twitter, wherein she gets down to business at the 1:03 mark, with a statement not unlike the “My Plans vs. 2020” meme. “At the beginning of this year, we were living in a different world,” she said. “Our unemployment rate was at a historic low. Tourism was at an all-time high. Our hotels were full. We all had plans to shape the future of this city we all love. I know I had plans.
“What we didn’t have plans for was the coronavirus — but it certainly had plans for us.”
Breed’s biggest deficit-busting strategy is to not give raises to city employees for the next two years. But as the Chronicle points out, this represents $250 million in pay raises for more than 37,000 unionized workers, so this will be no easy political feat. She connects it to a soft ultimatum that she then wouldn’t have to resort to layoffs or service cuts. “I don’t think this is too much to ask. The entire city is suffering right now,” Breed said.
But the biggest cuts are to the law enforcement departments, with a proposed slashing of $40 million a year from SFPD and $20 million a year from the sheriff’s department, totaling $120 million over two years. Most of these cuts would be enacted through just not filling 120 currently open officer positions. But other savings would come from canceling purchases of what Breed called “military grade equipment,” and the already stated goal of removing police from non-criminal call responses.
But the thing about budgets is that they’re just guidelines. For one, this budget is freshly introduced, and her rivals on the Board of Supervisors have not yet had at it. Moreover, the budget relies on a clean sweep of San Francisco voters approving business tax hikes on the November ballot. And that may happen; it's generally politically popular in San Francisco to raise taxes on large companies, perhaps especially so now. But freezing the pay of some 37,000 city workers may prove less popular, and could freeze relations with some segments of Breed's traditional supporters.
Image: Screenshot via Youtube