While state and city officials throughout California gear up to deal
with serious budget shortfalls, officials are gearing for action. Surprisingly, the Republican governor of California and the
Democratic mayor of San Francisco are taking not dissimilar
Arnold Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-16-08 on
December 19, 2008, he effectively ordered all state employees whose paycheck relies on
the General Fund to begin taking unpaid “furloughs” for two days per
month. This will affect state employees, but in San
Francisco, drastic action also has to be taken, to address a
projected citywide budget shortfall. In early December, Mayor Gavin
Newsom set out a number of budget proposals, including a wage freeze
for many local city and state employees in the Bay Area.
The mayor’s office reports that the budget deficit for next year is expected to be
nearly $600 million. By law, San Francisco
lawmakers are required to keep a balanced budget. One San Francisco Board of
Supervisors even reportedly suggested a wage freeze for many city
workers, allowing that such an action could save more than $30 million per
year. That particular suggestions has not appeared to gain much
traction, though it is not known if the mayor has warmed to the idea
Like the governor,
the mayor has suggested dealing with a budget shortfall by proposing
hiring and spending freezes, which have not been specified as of yet,
and are still options on the table for the mayor and city lawmakers.
Various layoffs have reportedly already occurred.
Like the governor’s
proposal, wage freezes for city employees may have success wrapped in
both fiscal and psychological bases. Like President Franklin D.
Roosevelt’s many ABC-programs during the Great Depression, some
of the budget fixing alternatives offered by Newsom are little more
than window dressing on a crumbling building. Not hiring one class of
police cadets will no more save the city than will raising taxes
enormously: when the economy is in shambles, you don’t force
the struggling citizen to foot the bill.
While California creaks and groans under the
current financial fiasco, Schwarzenegger
and Newsom both have their work cut out for them, and
both appear to recognize the psychological and fiscal impact
of finding and determining the best way to solve the state’s dire budget problem.
Wage freezes and minimal firings are the
ugly necessities that come with a bloated budget that was
irresponsibly created in the first place.
Humans are incredibly
complex figures, and they need both emotional and physical assurance that
their elected leaders are working to solve their government’s
problem. Newsom and Schwarzenegger are on the right
path, though neither has reached the end of their journey.