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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.

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.

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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