Federal cuts can't be made up in vacuum
If President-elect Donald Trump stands by his threat to strip all federal funds from sanctuary cities, it will result in the loss of millions of dollars. Already, city officials are bracing for the impact by studying how such a drastic hit will affect the city budget. The short answer: it's going to be painful.
City Controller Ben Rosenfield has estimated that the city receives $478 million directly from the federal government. The San Francisco Chronicle reported those dollars fund everything from foster care and HIV/AIDS services to local law enforcement to public works. San Francisco International Airport receives nearly $30 million for capital projects and grants – a cut to that will impact tourism, one of the city's biggest revenue generators and drivers of small businesses such as restaurants and other local attractions.
The city has come to expect cuts to HIV/AIDS services – the federal government does that every year. Under a formula imposed by federal officials, San Francisco has seen a steady decrease in funding because new HIV infections in the city have been trending downward for years. As we reported in April, City Hall has allocated more than $20 million since 2011 in local taxpayer dollars to cover the reduction of its share of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act funds. But even while AIDS officials know the cuts are coming, the shortfall of federal funding must still be replaced so that the city can continue to provide care and treatment to those living with HIV, and those who will seroconvert.
Supervisor David Campos this week called for $5 million to provide legal representation to undocumented immigrants who face deportation. While that is the type of forward thinking that we appreciate, it's also the type of policy work that shouldn't be done in a vacuum. Rather than deal with the potential loss of federal dollars in a piecemeal way, the Board of Supervisors should establish an organized, comprehensive response. The city can't effectively govern if every supervisor suddenly steps forward with multimillion-dollar proposals. Campos hopes to expedite his $5 million allocation to the public defender's office as soon as December 13, his last meeting on the board before being termed out of office. Campos, a gay man and one of the advocates for backfilling the HIV/AIDS shortfall every year, surely knows that the city budget must cover other departments too, regardless of whether Trump follows through on what he's said. The city also needs to take into account a big budget hole that was created when voters defeated Proposition K, the sales tax increase. The board had assumed it would pass – generating around $150 million for transportation and homeless services – and included that now non-existent money in the current budget allocations. There is also a looming $5 billion shortfall in the city's pension costs, the Chronicle noted. Possible solutions include raiding the soda tax revenue, which can be redirected but which backers promised voters would go to health-related purposes. That's about $7.5 million next year and $15 million in 2018-19, the paper reported. In short, there are a lot of moving parts to the city's financial machinery, and the smartest thing would be to convene a working group or for the board's budget committee to begin outlining the hard choices the supervisors and mayor will have to make.
Another important player will be the incoming District 8 supervisor. That person must be prepared on Day 1 to determine what federal funds could be lost under Trump and its effect on the LGBTQ community, in addition to the aforementioned expected HIV/AIDS reductions.
The looming Trump presidency scares a lot of us. And because Trump often contradicts himself, it's unclear what he will actually do. But his Cabinet choices so far are not LGBT-friendly, and they will have the ability to reverse federal policy for a number of issues, including health care and immigration. In the face of Trump's impending administration San Francisco city leaders cannot be divided. The city must stand united against Trump and his appointees who want to turn back the clock and punish cities that value all people.