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Tightening the Belt Across California

by Susannah Kopecky, published

Times, like patterns, ebb and flow predictably with time. There is still hope that the economic crisis of 2008-2009 will not be nearly as bad as the Great Depression, despite the widespread failure of banks. And various cities across California are dealing with the situation as they best see fit, with belt tightening and spending, hoping to receive greater returns.

In San Francisco, old ideas and new are being mixed together to provide a hoped-for local stimulating effect. A "jobs payroll tax credit" is being floated, as the Mayor's Office notes that "businesses that add jobs over the next two years will not have to pay the city's 1.5 percent payroll tax on those new positions," which is hoped to spur both employment and to encourage businesses to flourish in the city by the Bay. SF faces its own local budget shortfall, to the tune of $126.9 million. Further tax credit programs for families and businesses are set to be implemented, along with programs to give tax relief to companies participating in community programs and events.

There is even talk of a program to help teach "financial literacy" through the "Bank on San Francisco" program. Tax credits/relief and teaching responsible use of finances: these are certainly not new ideas, but they are good ones.

Last week, Major Newsom announced his own "stimulus proposal" that focused on "expediting infrastructure projects and granting loans and tax credits to local businesses." The city will have a government program that will make loans to small businesses, and there is a planned rebate of 50 percent "of the property tax that businesses pay for unsecured property" so long as said goods were purchased in San Francisco.

Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, even publicly mulled over the idea of freezing his salary and the salaries of his staff. Even Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles recently announced the availability of government programs to help jobseekers, in tandem with the community centers available for mental health support in this time of economic pain. Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego is asking residents to interact with the state government to suggest what should be included in the upcoming budget.

Like many of its sister cities throughout California and the nation, San Diego also faces a budget deficit, specifically of over $50 million (a sum which dwarfs in comparison to cities like San Francisco, which face budget shortfalls in excess of $100 million). In a press release, Mayor Sanders explained that "Like most American cities, San Diego has been hurt by the national recession and needs to make difficult decisions to balance its budget." The mayor also expressed his "great appreciation for the common sense of San Diegans," and encouraged residents to share ideas on reductions, streamlining and increasing revenues.

A big heaping dose of common sense is exactly what our politicians need. May San Diego lead the way in its straightforward path back to functionality and prosperity.

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