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If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll notice that I’m talking more and more about the budget problems facing other cities in California. I’m interested in the ideas coming from different places and how their governments are handling $100-million plus deficits, similar to the ones we have here.

Just this morning, we learned San Francisco is trying to save $50 million by reducing the work weeks of city employees, credit rating agencies were warning Los Angeles about the city’s indecisiveness on budget cuts and Los Angeles’ mayor is targeting council members’ off-the-book accounts to close the city’s operating deficit.

I have two questions: How relevant is this information to San Diego’s situation? And, how much do you care?

There are two schools of thought. One, promoted often by the Mayor’s Office, is that all California cities are in the same boat because of the economy and San Diego is no worse. This opinion forms the genesis of the idea — central to the mayor’s State of the City address — that San Diego is a model for other cities because it has made budget cuts already and reduced some of its retirement benefits for city workers. Therefore comparisons to other cities make sense, though sometimes they need to be checked.

The other school of thought says that just because other cities have budget problems it doesn’t mean San Diego has to have them, too. Further, this school argues that because of the pension scandal San Diego had a six-year head start on pension reform. In short, San Diego has had what’s called a “structural budget deficit” — it has long spent more money than it collected — so comparisons to other cities are of limited value.

What are your thoughts? Would you like to see more links to other cities’ budget fixes in my morning Agenda? Should I talk about other cities more in my day-to-day reporting? Comment box is open and you can always e-mail or tweet me.


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