This was San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders in October:
Our only recourse to solving a deficit that large will mean painful cuts to public services, more painful than the ones we’ve already established. Last year, we browned out fire stations and those brownouts may have to become permanent. Last year, we laid off support personnel in the police department but we can no longer promise to protect uniformed officers from layoffs. And for years we’ve been reducing hours and services at our libraries and rec centers, but we have to brace our citizens for permanent closures. That’s the stark reality of our situation.
After it was over, I said “You know, I’m not throwing my sucker in the dirt and now just decimating things just to show you that I was right.” I said that we would always re-prioritize and the fact that we got some additional revenues helped to cushion us.
The “it” in the mayor’s comments, of course, was November’s failure of Proposition D, a sales tax and financial reform ballot measure he had championed. Sanders had maintained that devastating cuts to all city services, primarily public safety, would be needed to close a budget gap then estimated at $72 million.
Last week, Sanders released his proposed budget for next year that largely left public safety unscathed and instead restored unpopular cuts to the Fire Department.
The Union-Tribune asked the mayor about the Prop. D rhetoric and the budget reality. The mayor responded that improving city tax revenues — which helped shave about $15 million off the deficit — allowed him to keep public safety from larger cuts.
Besides, the mayor said, his proposal devastates the city’s library and parks and recreation departments by nearly halving already reduced branch library hours and actually halving recreation center hours.
But already some council members are saying that the library and rec center cuts won’t stand. (Despite offering little pushback when he stood with the mayor at the budget’s release, Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s spokesman is now waving his hands about it.)
What’s unquestioned is that after Prop. D’s failure the budget remains structurally imbalanced, meaning the city is set up to take in less revenue than it spends. Even if the council adopts the mayor’s 2012 budget as proposed, a $40 million gap remains for 2013.