Newsom makes budget cuts, lays plans for interim mayor

After cutting nearly $20 million from San Francisco’s budget Tuesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom plans to release a blueprint for how to close the remainder of the $300 million deficit.

Newsom was elected lieutenant governor of California in November, and he is scheduled to be sworn in the first week of January.

One of his last acts as mayor of San Francisco will be leaving his successor a strategy for closing the $379 million deficit, which was reduced Tuesday through hiring freezes and other methods.

Last week, Newsom told The San Francisco Examiner that his options will be superior to other potential proposals, such as tax increases — which his political adversaries often advocate — or simply avoiding tough budget decisions.

“I think you have to continue to reduce the size of the work force, which is hard,” Newsom said. “We did get the wage concessions. We did two rounds of pension reform. We saved $1.4 billion. But we want to do a third round, which is hard.”

Layoffs and labor-cost reductions are expected to be included in the blueprint, which might be released some time next week. Also, it could include the cost-saving measure of contracting out certain city services, which Newsom has regularly proposed only to be rejected by the progressive bloc on the Board of Supervisors.

The fight about the budget will come after Newsom leaves office. The Board of Supervisors, needing at least six votes, will select someone to serve as San Francisco’s interim mayor for about a year. If Newsom postpones being sworn in as lieutenant governor Jan. 3, which he has said is likely, voting for the new mayor will fall to a board with four new members, who are scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 8.

Since the big cuts will fall to the interim mayor, the budget blueprint will show that person “a strategy that will get you there. Here are the big pieces,” Newsom’s budget director, Greg Wagner, said.

As a starting point, the mayor signed off on $19.7 million in savings Tuesday, which lowers the budget deficit in what his office said are noncontroversial ways.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a huge backlash about these,” Wagner said. “The bulk of it is just savings. It’s the result of a half-year of departments pinching pennies.”

The budget savings come from Newsom’s request for department heads to submit 2.5 percent in cuts by Dec. 21. He has asked department heads to come up with a total of
20 percent in cuts by February.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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