budgetnew.jpgThe SF Appeal was lucky enough to chat with Mayor Gavin Newsom for about 10 minutes just now. We were discussing — what else? — budget issues with Budget & Finance Committee chairman Supervisor John Avalos when the Mayor strode across the hall to discuss — what else? — budget issues with Avalos.

With the doers ensconced inside, we camped outside of Avalos’s office waiting for an opportunity to talk to Newsom, heart all-pitter-patter: after all, the media tells us Newsom isn’t talking to the media.

But that, Newsom told us, is simply “blown out of proportion (by said media) — it’s a new day and we’re moving forward.”

Darn media — way to almost ruin it for us!

As Newsom told KCBS this morning, he is moving forward with fixing the city’s budget mess. We know that, but how? Newsom brought up a slew of solutions which have been dismissed in the past, ranging from reigniting the condominium-conversion fee debate, re-floating a proposal to auction off taxicab medallions (thereby raising $100 million for Muni), and presenting the voters with tax hikes at the ballot box a year from now.

“Everything is on the table — and I mean everything,” said the Mayor, as he exited Avalos’s office and headed over to Board President David Chiu’s (it was locked; Chiu having left for the day not 10 minutes before). “Literally,” he repeated, “everything is on the table.”

Although that doesn’t mean the Mayor is seriously considering EVERYTHING — especially not tax hikes. The same wisdom as before applies: tax hikes don’t poll well, therefore it’s probably a waste of time to present them to voters. Newsom doesn’t support browning out fire stations, and wants to protect police officers’ salaries (which increased by another 4 percent this year). A bigger sales tax only hits poor voters, Newsom said. The state’s already raising taxes, and the school district has its own parcel tax measure, so we’re back to controversial moneymakers like the condo-conversion fee.

“They hate it,” said Newsom, gesturing to Board members’ doors. Though the Mayor was quick to mention that he and Avalos have a good working relationship, something that might not always play well with Avalos’s progressive buddies on the board.

Next year’s $522.2 million deficit includes $290.7 million in lost revenue — which will only get worse, as property tax revenue continues to plummet — and $231.5 million in increased expenditures. Newsom said he met with labor leaders Thursday, and will continue to do so in order to entice them to give back more salary increases (though he’s still looking forward to a scheduled storming of his office by SEIU Local 1021, scheduled for Monday).

Correcting an earlier report, Newsom said he will not slash departmental budgets by 30 percent across the board — though all departments are asked to present a 20 percent base reduction of their budgets, with another 10 percent on top of that as a contingency. “But that’s 30 percent!” you say. Yes, it is, but the Mayor then picks and chooses from that 30 percent, telling exactly what each department should cut. That won’t be easy or fun, as every department already did that last year — although at a 15 percent base reduction, 15 percent contingency split. This means some departments could see, in a little over a year, their budgets halved. Ouch.

Newsom also said there’s “simply no money” available to save 100 jobs in the Department of Public Health, despite an upcoming Board vote Tuesday to do just that.

So brace yourselves, San Francisco: it’s not going to be easy. Gavin Newsom said so.

Photo of Mayor Newsom signing the 2008 budget by Bill Wilson

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