Commentary: Is It a Budget Crisis or Not?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, June 12, 2009

Sacramento County is $180 million dollars in the hole. To close that gap, county leaders propose to lay off more than 500 workers, and cut another 400 or so vacant jobs.

Things are so bad the county stopped paying private providers to take care of mentally ill poor people who’ve been found to be a danger to themselves or others. So now when the county’s mental health clinic reaches capacity, indigent psychotics start stacking up in emergency rooms of private hospitals.

So on the surface things look really bad. But look closer. Sacramento County is offering its deputies a 2.9% pay raise next year. It’s less than the 6.9 originally scheduled, but a raise nonetheless. They’re also offering deputies an extra week off the first year, and three more weeks the next.

If deputies accept the smaller raise and extra time off, they can save 73 of their fellow officer’s jobs. Even so, the union president says chances deputies will approve the smaller raise are only “50-50.”

It’s hard to convey a sense of urgency about the county’s financial plight when deputies are being offered a pay raise and more time off, while the mentally ill are left stranded in emergency rooms.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.