Fresno

Brand threatens vetoes facing bloated budget

Thursday, the Fresno City Council is expected to approve a budget for fiscal year 2020. On Wednesday, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand announced he is readily prepared to use his veto pen to ensure the budget is balanced.

Pointing to a vast consensus with the Council, in a statement issued Wednesday evening Brand said he would still need to use the power of line-item veto to ensure the 2020 budget was balanced.

“The City Council is voting tomorrow on Fiscal Year 2020 budget that is proposing to spend $1.16 million more than the City has in available revenue to spend,” Brand said. “This comes seven months after voters overwhelmingly amended the City Charger to require the balanced budget.”

Last week, the City Council approved motions to adjust Brand’s initial budget proposal leading to the increase in spending.

Among the proposals were two controversial proposals: one to set aside $200,000 for the administrative element of the Advance Peace initiative – a controversial program that would pay gang members not to engage in violent crime.

The other funding proposal is $300,000 in spending for Fresno’s newly-formed Immigrant Affairs Committee.

City Hall watchers are waiting to see if Brand will wind up using the line item veto to kill the two proposals.

“I believe the Council and I agree on about 99.7% of what is contained in the City Budget,” Brand said in a statement. “[A]nd I think it is a healthy sign for our democracy that we can have robust and spirited public and private conversations on the few things in the 0.3% where we don’t agree.”

One sticking point between Brand and the City Council is Fresno’s budget reserve. Current city ordinances require Fresno maintain a budget reserve of 10 percent.

Past economic conditions, including the Great Recession compounded by considerable municipal debt, led to those budget reserve policies.

At the outset of budget negotiations, the City Council indicated that the budget reserve amount was excessive given current economic conditions. Brand, who once led the Council during difficult financial decisions amid the recession, has argued that the reserve was necessary irrelevant of current conditions.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.