An interesting op-ed appeared in this morning’s Union-Tribune from four business leaders exhorting city of San Diego leaders to make reducing labor costs the top priority for solving fiscal problems.

The op-ed came on the heels of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ failed reform package, and reiterates the view of some influential members of the business community that see tax increases as a deal breaker in current discussions to fix the city’s budget deficit.

Three of the piece’s four authors, Bill Roper, Pete Garcia and Dick Vortmann, were part of a mayoral task force that warned of bankruptcy if the city didn’t undertake urgent and drastic fiscal reforms — including outsourcing and cutting retirement costs.

In an interview, Vortmann, former Naasco CEO, said the op-ed was meant to keep the task force’s recommendations in the public dialogue. He said the group had planned to write the op-ed before word leaked about the mayor’s compromise idea, which included the controversial sales tax increase.

“It was independent [of the sales tax proposal],” Vortmann said. “But it certainly fits with our perspective.”

Two schools of thought are crystallizing in the debate over fixing the city’s budget problems. There’s the “grand compromise” camp, as seen in the mayor’s recent effort. It wants to package cost cuts with revenue increases at the same time. There’s the “reform before revenue” camp, advocated by the coalition of Republican and pro-business interests that spiked the sales tax proposal. It argues that meaningful cost cuts must come in advance of new tax or fee proposals.

Vortmann said he allied with “reform before revenue.”

“I’m skeptical that you necessarily have to do these things all at the same time,” he said. “I’m also skeptical that even if it’s presented as a package that all the elements of a package would get done. That once you get the new money, it’s easy not to do things that would address the root cause of the problem.”


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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