Sacramento and the recovery

Local hurt, national fix

Barbara Boxer is a longtime U.S. senator representing California

The recession causing turmoil on Wall Street, in Detroit and on Main streets across America is also severely straining budgets in cities and counties throughout California. There is no doubt that the recession has already had a serious impact on the economy and citizens of Sacramento.

Last month, I released a report, “Realities of Recession in California,” that details the impact of the nation’s recession on California’s counties and cities. The study—based on interviews my staff and I conducted with officials in 20 cities and all 58 counties—is a detailed analysis that includes unemployment figures, home-foreclosure rates, budget deficits and firsthand accounts of the impact of the recession on social services and nongovernmental, charitable organizations.

Budget deficits and revenue reductions have forced counties and cities to make cuts in many important programs, including public-safety programs, Medi-Cal services, mental-heath services, Meals on Wheels, and youth and senior centers.

Specifically, Sacramento County reports that in order to balance its budget, it has already closed several health clinics and implemented cutbacks that have reduced the capacity of mental-health clinics and the probation department. The county has also implemented a hiring freeze across all departments, many of which were already operating below full capacity.

Sacramento County had 47,271 foreclosure filings in the county between January and November 2008. The rise in foreclosures and the decline in the assessed values of homes have resulted in the loss of an estimated $15 million in tax revenue for the county. As a result, foreclosure-related crimes like vandalism and squatting have increased. Unfortunately, officials have had to make difficult cuts to public safety as a result of budget gaps.

The report highlights the tough conditions and difficult decisions facing our communities, and with this information, I can show congressional leaders and President-elect Barack Obama what we need in California to get us back on track, create jobs and turn this economy around.

Based on what I have seen, I will work to include these key provisions in the economic-recovery package:

• Investment to repair and improve existing infrastructure

• Increased support for federal programs that support energy efficiency in new buildings and upgrades to existing buildings, which would create jobs

• Investment in water-infrastructure projects, including reclamation, reuse and groundwater-cleanup programs

• Providing additional Community Development Block Grants to address local housing needs and neighborhood stabilization as a result of the foreclosure crisis

As a former county supervisor, I know that local officials are on the front lines of this recession, and the information they have provided gives me the information I need to fight—for Sacramento and the rest of California—as I work with my colleagues on a recovery plan.