Newsom: Public Health faces $102 million deficit

February 18, 2010

San Francisco General Hospital could be facing more budget cuts as the state's fiscal problems trickle down to the local level. Photo from UCSF, Paul Fusco.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom warned the city’s Health Commission Wednesday that the Department of Public Health could be facing another $100 million in budget cuts. This in a department that runs a hospital, San Francisco General, where the elevators are 30 years old and are run without a regular service contract. Here is an excerpt from the Mission Local blog (note that I have corrected their reference to the federal money for California from millions to billions):

“You have the largest budget, and the largest general fund of any city department,” Newsom said, addressing the commission. “You have never had budget cuts at the same level as other city departments. Arguably, you have the toughest job in the city. And yet, layoffs must be on the table again.”

The problem, Newsom said, was that the state of California had built its budget on the assumption that it would get $6.6 billion to $8.3 billion from the federal government. Instead, that amount now looks to be more along the lines of $1.5 billion.

Which means that, after already deep cuts, the Department of Public Health will need to either make further cuts, or raise money to makeup the shortfall on its own.

“I don’t know what they can possibly do to get out of this mess,” Newsom said to the commission, clearly agitated. “We have Pelosi, Feinstein, and Boxer. No city in America has more political influence than we do. But it looks like layoffs must be on the table again.

“The $49 million that was in San Francisco’s rainy day reserve fund is now down to $25 million. Last year we had federal stimulus money, which was a one-time solution. Every day we delay means we will have a greater risk of not balancing our budget.”

“I suggest you look into revenue strategies,” Newsom said. “I just met with the director of Park and Recreation about this and I thought some of his revenue ideas were brilliant, and others were the worst I’d ever heard. I’m not going to tell you which were the worst.”

“Good luck! We’re all in this together!” And with that the mayor turned around and walked out in an exaggerated vaudevillian tiptoe.

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