San Diego’s Bigger than Many States: Fact Check

San Diego’s Bigger than Many States: Fact Check

Compliments of Danon's website

Steve Danon

 

Steve Danon, one of five candidates vying to replace county Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, wants you to know that county government is important.

During a recent interview on the Mike Slater Show, he cited a couple statistics to put county’s reach in perspective:

A lot of people don’t realize that San Diego County, we have more than 3 million residents. We’re larger than 20 states in the union and the county budget of $4.8 billion is actually larger than the budget of 22 states.

We decided to Fact Check the two comparisons because they sounded like interesting descriptions of county government’s power. According to Danon, San Diego’s five county supervisors oversee more people and money than the bureaucracy of some states.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” Danon said in the interview.

Because the accuracy of his claims varies, we’ve broken down our analyses and determinations into separate sections. First, let’s look at population.


A lot of people don’t realize that San Diego County, we have more than 3 million residents. We’re larger than 20 states in the union.

Image: True

That’s accurate, according to the 2010 Census. The county had about 3.1 million residents, which was larger than the population of 21 states.

Since the 2010 Census backs up the comparison, we’ve rated this claim True.


The county budget of $4.8 billion is actually larger than the budget of 22 states.

That’s not accurate, according to a recent report by the National Association of State Budget Officers. (Yes, such an organization actually exists and produces annual reports that turn out to be immensely convenient for this story.)

The organization’s report includes a survey of each state’s operating budget for the current fiscal year. Danon’s figure for the county budget also refers to the current fiscal year, but it’s a broader view of spending than just day-to-day operating costs.

Still, even with this broader view of county spending, the comparison doesn’t match up. The operating budget of only 16 states is smaller than San Diego County’s entire $4.8 billion budget.

A more apples-to-apples comparison of operating budgets supplies an even less stark contrast than Danon claimed. The county’s operating budget is about $3.7 billion — bigger than the operating budget of a dozen states.Image: False

The county’s operating budget pays for day-to-day costs like employee wages, office supplies and gas for county vehicles. Other parts of the total budget pay for long-term costs like buildings, roads, maintenance and debt, or special agencies for functions like sanitation and air quality.

But whether you compare the total budget or just the operating budget, the report shows Danon overstated how many states spend less than San Diego County. We’ve rated this claim False.

If you disagree with our determinations or analyses, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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22 comments
Richard Rider
Richard Rider subscribermember

I would have gone with "kind'a true," "overstated," "inaccurate," or some other less damning category than simply "false."

Richard Rider
Richard Rider

I would have gone with "kind'a true," "overstated," "inaccurate," or some other less damning category than simply "false."

Richard Rider
Richard Rider subscribermember

I'd move back there, but then I'd have nothing to complain about but the weather.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider

I'd move back there, but then I'd have nothing to complain about but the weather.

Jon Osborn
Jon Osborn subscriber

Nice false dichotomy, mlcred. I bet VOSD has the resources to fact check Danon as well as Filner's ridiculous statements about the Port.

Jon Osborn
Jon Osborn

Nice false dichotomy, mlcred. I bet VOSD has the resources to fact check Danon as well as Filner's ridiculous statements about the Port.

michael-leonard
michael-leonard subscriber

But, Cris Brewster has this one called: there are bigger and better fish to fact check.

mlcred
mlcred

But, Cris Brewster has this one called: there are bigger and better fish to fact check.

Jon Osborn
Jon Osborn subscriber

The point, Jon, is that he (or his people) could have easily verified the info before he made the statement. Why didn't he (or they)?

Jon Osborn
Jon Osborn

The point, Jon, is that he (or his people) could have easily verified the info before he made the statement. Why didn't he (or they)?

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

So it's important to call him out about getting his civic boosterism number wrong? Bring me political intrigue!

B Chris Brewster
B Chris Brewster

So it's important to call him out about getting his civic boosterism number wrong? Bring me political intrigue!

Omar Passons
Omar Passons subscribermember

If the second half of this fact check had been "0 states" it might have been more interesting. The larger point that the County budget is enormous and more of it should go to partnering with the City of San Diego is accurate so I'm not sure his claim loses anything by being off by 10 states. "Bigger than 22" and "bigger than 12" don't impact my view of the point he was making and I can't imagine that difference impacts most people. And yes, I totally made the part up about more of the County's budget needing to go to working with the City, but maybe Steve will read this and evaluate how the County works with the City on important issues if he is elected. Worth a shot, anyway.

omarpassons
omarpassons

If the second half of this fact check had been "0 states" it might have been more interesting. The larger point that the County budget is enormous and more of it should go to partnering with the City of San Diego is accurate so I'm not sure his claim loses anything by being off by 10 states. "Bigger than 22" and "bigger than 12" don't impact my view of the point he was making and I can't imagine that difference impacts most people. And yes, I totally made the part up about more of the County's budget needing to go to working with the City, but maybe Steve will read this and evaluate how the County works with the City on important issues if he is elected. Worth a shot, anyway.

Jon Osborn
Jon Osborn subscriber

Are you gonna fact check his statement that it takes 5 to 7 years for a business to get the necessary permits to open, and that's why businesses are leaving California?

Jon Osborn
Jon Osborn

Are you gonna fact check his statement that it takes 5 to 7 years for a business to get the necessary permits to open, and that's why businesses are leaving California?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

You really shouldn't count everyone in the county as under the county supervisor. Most of us would scarcely notice if the county government took a year off.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

You really shouldn't count everyone in the county as under the county supervisor. Most of us would scarcely notice if the county government took a year off.

Jon P. Vivian
Jon P. Vivian subscriber

What is the point? He was off by a little, but it is still a pretty large budget.

bigjonviv
bigjonviv

What is the point? He was off by a little, but it is still a pretty large budget.