Sacramento is at a crossroads. Our community is flourishing for many, but others are being left behind. Our Measure U campaign focused on the need to narrow this gap.
We did not ask voters to raise more taxpayer money to continue the status quo. We appealed to voters to invest in our community, including focusing on those previously left behind. The City Council asked the voters to double the tax to invest in economic development, our neighborhoods and equity.
Many of our city’s children grow up in poverty and have little reason to think their economic trajectory will lead to anything different. The economic stagnation of many neighborhoods, commercial corridors and families has real consequences. Strong economies are diverse, with multiple economic drivers. Our region is too dependent on the fortunes of the state government, exposing us unnecessarily during every economic downturn.
A large percentage of our young people are not prepared to fill the higher-wage jobs that would broaden our tax base and stabilize our budget. This is unsustainable. We need to invest in programs and projects to create a diversity of jobs, address homelessness and build affordable housing.
We also have a moral and legal imperative to pay our pension obligations. But the growing gulf between rich and poor in Sacramento looms as a slow-motion disaster that could erode our tax base and leave us unable to fulfill those obligations long-term without slashing city services.
Fifty-seven percent of voters approved Measure U. While people voted yes for a variety of reasons, many clearly agreed with the visions of making the promised investments. The campaign message was clear: A significant amount of the money was intended to spur economic growth in our community and focus on historically overlooked people and neighborhoods.
Now the real fight over that vision has begun. Since Measure U is a general tax that flows into the general fund, the City Council must decide how to spend it.
It’s up to us to decide whether we are going to invest in our future or continue with the status quo, which we know will lead to cutting services long-term as salaries and pension growth outpaces the stagnant economic growth projected for our city.
The City Manager ’s proposed budget for 2019-20 represents a solid first step in making good on our promises. It includes nearly $52 million for items that dovetail with the Measure U vision. These items will be submitted to the Measure U Community Advisory Committee in the coming weeks.
What is lacking in this budget is a provision to ensure Measure U funds aren’t diverted in the coming years.
We support the mayor’s push to dedicate about $40 million a year toward the priorities articulated in the Measure U campaign, including some limited bonding with strong safeguards and oversight. We support a resolution clearly stating that we as a City Council intend to put this amount of money towards economic equity programs.
We stand with the mayor in supporting a plan that prioritizes community investment. Our plan contains important safeguards, and any actual allocation of funds must be approved by the City Council each year after being vetted by the Measure U Investment and Community Advisory committees. We are not locked in to spending $40 million if we face a dire budget situation and need to tap the money to cover other obligations.
Without these new investments we will have the same struggles in our families, in our communities and with our city services.
It’s time for us on the City Council to step away from a status quo budget and invest in the growth of our local economy so we can meet our pension obligations, deliver the city services we need and build a more resilient and equitable Sacramento.