Posts Tagged 'cuts'

SF Gray Panthers support MUNI drivers voting for no concessions

SF Gray Panthers support MUNI drivers voting for no concessions

On Friday, June 11, San Francisco MUNI drivers rejected the City’s demands for concessions for the second time. (See below.)  SF Gray Panthers made the following statement of support:

The SF Gray Panthers salutes the MUNI drivers who resisted the pressures of downtown business, the Mayor’s office, the Chronicle and Examiner, and some Supervisors, in rejecting the concessions the City is trying to force down their throats. MUNI’s service cuts, fare increases, and financial problems are not caused by drivers’ greed or the riders’ fare evasion; they are caused by downtown business refusing to pay for the service MUNI provides in bringing them their customers and workers.

We recognize that the same forces that attack MUNI drivers and riders are also attacking the City services we need to survive; health, human services, housing, and nutrition. Thoughtful City workers in other unions should support the drivers, because the drivers’ refusal to make concessions and their crucial position in the City’s economy could make the City think twice demanding even more concessions from other unions. This could save both jobs and services.

We demand: No service cuts or fare increases for SF’s poor, seniors, minorities, and immigrants. Make downtown business pay for the services they receive. Drivers and riders should unite to demand more public transit, not less.

(See this letter in June 15 SF Chronicle.)

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San Francisco Chronicle, June 12, 2010

S.F. Muni operators reject proposed givebacks

(06-11) 21:02 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Muni operators rejected a proposed package of labor concessions Friday that city officials said was needed to help San Francisco’s financially pinched transit agency partially roll back the deep service cuts imposed last month.

Members of Transport Workers Local 250-A, which represents about 2,000 Muni operators, voted 747 against and 538 in favor of the proposed pact, according to union official Walter Scott.

The reductions, which went into effect five weeks ago, amounted to 300,000 service hours a year, or about 10 percent. They have led to more crowded buses and streetcars, fewer transit options late at night and longer waits between runs.

Mayor Gavin Newsom called the rejection “a slap in the face to everyone who rides Muni and to every other public employee union member,” who already agreed to givebacks. “Once again, I call upon the membership of the TWU to reconsider and revote.”

The leadership of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A forged a tentative agreement with Muni management two weeks ago that city officials say would cut costs by about $19 million over two years.

Union membership has been split bitterly over the proposal.

Bucking union officials, the rank and file resoundingly rejected a different set of proposed givebacks in February.

The new proposal called for lifting the de facto prohibition on the use of part-time operators, tightening overtime rules and changing dependent health care coverage.

It also would have extended the operators’ contract for another year, through June 30, 2012. That would have given operators an extra year to benefit from a guarantee enshrined in the city charter that they are paid at least the second-highest wage among U.S. transit operators.

That operator-friendly provision could be in jeopardy. Two separate charter amendments proposed for the November election seek to undo the automatic pay guarantee, though neither has qualified for the ballot.

The proposed ballot measures seek to set operator salaries through collective bargaining with the aim of giving management more flexibility in getting rid of inefficient work rules.

Municipal Transportation Agency chief Nathaniel Ford said that a favorable ratification vote would have benefited riders by restoring half the service cuts by early September.

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Rejection of California budget sets stage for even larger spending cuts

World Socialist Web Site, June 25, 2009

Rejection of California budget sets stage for even larger spending cuts

By Kevin Martinez and Joe Kishore
25 June 2009

The California legislature failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to pass a Democratic Party proposal to address the state’s $24 billion budget deficit. Democrats will now enter closed-door negotiations with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on a compromise that will include even more massive cuts in social services.

Discussions between the two parties have been ongoing for the last several weeks, much of it in secret and with no public input. Both sides have already agreed that draconian cuts in basic social programs are necessary.

To offset some cuts, however, Democrats had proposed a variety of mainly regressive tax increases, which require the support of a two-thirds majority in the legislature. This proposal failed as expected on Wednesday, largely along party lines. The Democrats control both houses of the state legislature, but do not have a two-thirds majority.

A proposal advanced by Schwarzenegger calls for $16 billion in budget cuts. These include eliminating the state welfare program; shutting down Healthy Families, the health insurance program for 930,000 children; closing 220 state parks; and ending Cal-Grants, which provides aid to poorer students to attend college. Schwarzenegger is also proposing a 5 percent pay cut for state workers, in addition to a 10 percent pay cut already announced.

Public education will be singled out for a large share of the budget cuts. About $5.3 billion would be taken from K-12 education and community colleges over next year, on top of the billions in cuts that have already been enacted.

The so-called “alternative” proposed by the Democrats was a slightly less severe program of $11 billion in budget cuts. The Democrats propose cutting $4.5 billion from K-12 education, $2.8 billion from higher education, and $2.6 billion from health and human services.

Democrats also proposed $2.2 billion in tax increases, including a 9.9 percent levy on oil extracted in California, a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax and a $15 registration fee for vehicles. In an accounting move designed to save $1 billion, Democrats have proposed pushing state workers’ paychecks back one day from June 30 to July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat from Sacramento, told the Pasadena Star News, “We present a budget where everybody feels some pain; every part of the safety net takes a cut.”

In fact, both Democrats and Republicans are determined to make the working class pay for the crisis. No matter what compromise is now reached, either through a combination of borrowing from local governments, accounting maneuvering, tax levies, or selling off state assets, a massive attack on the social infrastructure of California is underway.

The Democratic Party accepts the argument that the only way to fix California’s budget deficit is to strangle what remains of public education and the social safety net. Senator Gloria Romero, a Democrat, told The Los Angeles Times, “When someone tells us ‘No new cuts,’ I say, ‘Look, don’t tell me that.’…There is the sense that we must do what we must do to keep California solvent.”

Indeed, the proposed tax increases were largely for show. Even before the vote, Democrats acknowledged that they would not pass. Last week Schwarzenegger responded to a question about what kind of fight he expected over the tax increases by responding, “Well, what is being said and what is being done, as you know, are sometimes two different things.”

The Mercury News commented: “Schwarzenegger was suggesting that Democrats were posturing on their $2.1 billion in tax proposals, putting on what he calls Kabuki theater for their constituents before he expected them to relent to the reality that Republicans will never agree to taxes as part of the solutions lawmakers must find to close the $24.3 billion deficit.”

The budget crisis takes place against the backdrop of the economic collapse of California, the most populous state in the US and, if measured as an independent country, the eight largest economy in the world.

According to government officials, the state will be insolvent by July 28, which has prompted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to threaten to bring the government to a “grinding halt” and stop borrowing to cover the state’s expenses.

The state comptroller, John Chiang, has warned that without a new budget the state will begin issuing “IOUs” in place of cash to social service agencies, private contractors and state vendors. The state’s cash crunch, Chiang said, is unlike anything “seen since the Great Depression.”

Recent figures point to a continued deterioration of the state economy. Unemployment in California soared to 11.5 percent for May, the highest level since World War II. The April unemployment figure was 11.1 percent, compared to 6.8 percent in May 2008. A more complete measure of unemployment, including those forced to work only part time, shows that more than one in five Californians is unemployed or underemployed.

California, accounted for one out of every five jobs lost last month. Out of a population of 37 million people, 2.1 million Californians are officially unemployed, 885,000 more than last month.

The state has been hit particularly hard by the collapse of housing prices, which have wreaked havoc on the real estate market, construction, and other financial related industries. With several major ports on the Pacific Ocean, California is also heavily dependent on world trade, which is falling rapidly.

California saw a decline of 33.8 percent of personal income tax receipts in May. The decline in revenue will mean a new round of austerity measures to balance the state budget, since the state collects half of its revenue from personal income taxes.

The state is under intense pressure from Wall Street to impose concessions. Moody’s Investor Service has threatened California’s general obligation debt with a “multi-notch” downgrading if the state legislature failed to produce a balanced budget before going bankrupt. The state is currently at an A2 credit rating, which are just five notches above speculative status.

A downgrade will mean that the state will face sharply higher interest rates for borrowing, if it is able to gain credit at all.

The Obama administration has responded to the economic meltdown of California by repeatedly refusing federal assistance. Instead, the administration, speaking on behalf of the most powerful sections of the financial elite, is making California an example for other states to follow as they enact austerity budgets.

By abandoning the richest and most populous state to its own devices, the Obama administration has directly contributed to the crisis now unfolding. Trillions are handed out to private banks, but when it comes to the world’s eight largest economy on the verge of bankruptcy, no money is available.

As California collapses, executives at Goldman Sachs and other banks are anticipating record bonuses, returning to business as usual. No faction of the political establishment so much as suggests that those who are responsible for the economic crisis—the wealthy corporate and financial elite—should be made to pay for it.

On the contrary, the budget crisis in California is being used a template to enact cuts to social services all across the country. The ruling class is determined to seize on the economic crisis to restructure class relations in the United States.

Newsom Budget Figures Don’t Add Up

BeyondChron, June 2, 2009

Newsom Budget Figures Don’t Add Up
by Paul Hogarth

Mayor Gavin Newsom must assume that when releasing a budget everyone expects to have cuts, the press will just take a few pictures, jot down some snappy quotes, and – maybe – read his one-page press release. Beyond Chron, however, bothered to review the whole proposal, and the numbers contradict what Newsom said in his speech – where he assured us Public Health cuts would be less severe than feared. The budget has over $100 million in cuts for that Department, not $43 million as he claimed. Newsom also said the Mayor’s Office would get a 28% cut, but the figures show only 9% of his staff are being laid off – and the division that runs his media operation would actually get bigger. And in a strange twist, Newsom said he really didn’t like some cuts that he proposed – and would “count on” the Supervisors to restore them during the add-back process, but left unsaid where to find the money. As San Francisco faces its worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, Newsom bragged that Police and Fire are getting no layoffs – while the rich and Downtown businesses will not be paying more taxes. He also warned more budget cuts are coming from the state, echoing the threats of Governor Schwarzenegger.  (Article continues below.)

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Please join the June 10th march “REAL DEAL OR NO DEAL” to save vital services for San Francisco’s most vulnerable elderly, disabled, minority, and low-wage working people.

Wedneday, June 10, 3 PM.  Meet at Hallidie Plaza (Market St betw. 4th & 5th Sts)
We will march to, and around City Hall.

We demand: (1) Supervisors, resist the devastating cuts in the Mayor’s budget, which will be announced by then, (2) Make cuts instead to a growing list of unnecessary, less necessary services, or services for those better able to pay for them, (3) approve fair revenue measures to assure stable funding for our working population, and (4) stop making budget decisions in secret.   Download a poster for this event

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June 1st is when the Mayor has to submit a budget, and over the next month the Board of Supervisors’ Budget Committee will scrutinize his proposal, and offer some amendments before final passage in July. Newsom took the unilateral step of making $71 million in mid-year cuts earlier this year without approval of the legislative branch, and the question now is how the Board will handle another onslaught of painful decisions – in a way that most fairly “shares the pain” to protect the most vulnerable. But first, Gavin needed his orchestrated press event.

I’ve attended my share of press conferences in Room 200 – but yesterday’s one appeared calculated to keep most local media at bay. Rather than have Mayor Newsom speak in the reception area, we were ushered into a back room. Then, we were told we could not go inside – but could watch from behind a doorway, as elected officials and department heads crowded in to take their seats. Before the event started, the staff asked homeless rights advocate Jennifer Friedenbach to leave because she was not “credentialed press” – although she was there to cover the event for Street Sheet. Later on, the only courtesy that Newsom’s staff gave us was for each reporter to briefly step into the room (one at a time) to take photos of the Mayor giving his speech.

Newsom spoke for about an hour, outlining his budget proposal and how he “looked forward” to working with the Supervisors over the next month. Despite the City facing a half-a-billion dollar deficit, Newsom said he had a “balanced budget with no taxes and no borrowing” which “doesn’t come close” to balancing it on the backs of Public Health (DPH) or Human Services (HSA). The Mayor had asked all Department Heads to make 12.5% in cuts, but these agencies that serve the poorest were spared from such an extent – adding, he said, that HSA only had $27 million in cuts, and DPH only about $43 million.

It wasn’t until reading the 430-page document that I learned this was at best misleading, and at worst a lie. You can probably get $43 million in Public Health by just counting the cuts to various contract services like substance abuse, mental health, Health At Home, community health, ambulatory care and emergency services. But that still doesn’t count the $100 million in net budget cuts to S.F. General Hospital and Laguna Honda. Newsom also claimed the City will be getting $80 million in federal stimulus funds to help with Medi-Cal reimbursements. Turns out the actual figure is $37 million.

Newsom acknowledged that “layoffs are in the budget,” and 1,603 positions would have to be eliminated. The Mayor added that he cut 28% out of his own budget, which he used to point out that everyone was asked to tighten their belts. But the budget proposal shows that the Mayor’s Office would get a 60% increase, although much of that includes various funds and services. Just looking at what percentage of staff would be laid off in that department, it’s only 9% – or less than the 12% target Newsom gave to all other agencies. The Mayor’s Office of Public Policy & Finance (which includes his bloated media relations division) will actually get 29% more than this year under his proposal.

In a bizarre (almost Orwellian) moment, Newsom lamented some of his cuts – and said he hoped the Board of Supervisors would reverse them. Specifically, he mentioned the mental health and substance abuse cuts in the Health Department budget. “I’m counting on [the Board] to add back the things I don’t want cut,” he said. But the Mayor’s budget proposal is supposed to be just that – his proposal – and the political fight then happens as the Supervisors debate his funding priorities, and vote to make any changes.

I asked Newsom why propose these cuts in the first place if he wants them reversed, and he replied “because I have to submit a balanced budget.” I pointed out the Supervisors also must pass a balanced budget, and he replied they could use the “add-back” process. But “add-backs” are only possible if there’s money, which is no guarantee in this year’s fiscal crisis. Newsom said that the Board’s Budget Analyst Harvey Rose would figure it out later, like he does “every year” – even though this is no ordinary year.

One group the Mayor bragged won’t see layoffs is the Police, despite the controversy about them taking millions from Muni in “work orders” to patrol buses. Now, a Channel 7 investigative report shows the cops aren’t doing what they’re getting paid for in that program. The Supervisors may have pried $5 million from Police to give back to the MTA, but the Mayor’s Police budget still has a $14 million line item for work orders. Newsom adds the Fire Department won’t have cuts, while the Firefighters Union pays his consultant – Eric Jaye – to run the campaign against “rolling brownouts” that would save money.

The Mayor concluded his remarks by discussing what could make our budget worse: the unresolved fiscal crisis in Sacramento. Governor Schwarzenegger’s May revise proposed borrowing money from city and county governments to help the state’s financial situation, which could blow another $175 million hole in the City’s deficit. Newsom called it a “done deal” in his speech, but I got him to acknowledge (after the speech) that two-thirds of the state legislature must still approve it – before Arnold has carte blanche to raid California’s broke localities.

Newsom also addressed the state’s recent special election, and said the “message was clear – the people want us to find $6 billion in more cuts.” That’s a disturbing analysis, as polling evidence shows that the voters did not vote “for cuts” when they rejected a fatally flawed budget package that was the product of political extortion. The state budget can also be balanced with deeply popular revenue measures – such as an oil severance tax, or restoring upper-income tax brackets to what Republican Governors Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan agreed to during hard times. We need to fight for this.

Gavin Newsom wants to be Governor, but his analysis of the state budget mess is the last thing progressives need right now – and calls into question whether he’s ready for prime time. As Schwarzenegger pushes for an “all-cuts” budget, we need Democrats in Sacramento who fight back – and help build momentum and public outrage against the two-thirds rule. Newsom supports lowering the threshold to pass a state budget, but he has not shown the willingness to lead on this issue. For now, progressives should be looking elsewhere …


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